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For many years I called Delhi home.
Winters would bring chilly temperatures hovering just above zero. Which sounds wimpy when compared with a Winnipeg winter of -40’c, however when you have no indoor heating, it is mighty cold!
And fog, so thick sometimes you could barely see a few feet in front of you. Causing havoc with air transportation with delays endemic those winter months…
This is what I found looking out from my hotel window, an early morning in February…
Dawn in Delhi from the window of the Taj Mahal hotel on Man Singh Marg. That mythical quality was clearly not captured so well in the photo, and alas is a combination of natural (fog) and unnatural (pollution) factors.
Such a contrast to our scorching sunshine days in Mumbai! I returned from Delhi early Feb to be greeting by an unseasonably early temperature rise.
Related Sunday snaps:
When running up the steps for a meeting in Hauz Khas village in Delhi… was arrested by the sight of this mural on the staircase wall…
From office art in Mumbai to stairwell murals in Delhi, any everyday art make you stop and stare?
Other Sunday Snaps:
When traveling, a gal has got to eat! In 2015, I had several trips to Delhi. Normally I keep it a quick ‘grab and go’ kinda meal unless it is a sit down business lunch or dinner.
However during my December trip, with the chill in the air and a little time on my hands between meetings I had a ‘proper’ sit down Punjabi lunch with chole (chickpeas), laccha parantha, pickles and salad. It was simple and completely satisfying!
Now I’ve ordered hot chole bhatura from a local dhaba in Bandra and have even been known to make it at home from time to time… however it is just not the same as the spicy tangy incredibly delicious version most joints make in Delhi.
There are lots of other amazing Punjabi dishes… any other favourites out there? Ones that are simply not quite the same outside of either someone’s home or a particular location?
One of the delights about living in Asia is access to an array of fresh food. Pure and unadulterated.
In Canada if you want coconut water? You get it from a can or a drink box imported from Asia.
In India, if you want coconut water? The coconut man brings it fresh to your door.
You can sip it with a straw or even have it in a glass if you prefer (why?).
He’ll then ask if you want the ‘meat’ and proceed to take part of the coconut shell to scoop out and roughly chop all that good stuff so it is easy to eat as is or store to have later.
Practically everything from the coconut can be used.
I was back in Delhi for a few days and lucky me – a friend ever so kindly offered to let me crash at his place in Safdarjung Development Area.
I was extra excited as this was my old ‘hood’ from Delhi days 2003 – 2005. So when I had a bit of time, decided to take a leisurely stroll.
Ever have a time in your life where so much is happening, it seems almost unreal? As I wrote my immigration form a few hours ago to re-enter India from Singapore, I declared my travels in the last 6 days – Singapore obviously, but also India for a day, before that the UK and Canada.
And why so much travel? The real reason combines the personal and the professional.
On the personal front…
Lots of different things however the real big news is… drum roll here… my partner and I finally took the plunge to sign a piece of paper in Winnipeg with a wee wedding at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. We knew from the moment we met over five years ago that we wanted to spend our lives together, however took our time to get to this stage of bringing our respective families together in celebration.
It still feels strange when folks teasingly call me “Mrs Smith” – a last name I am not adopting but respect completely. I apparently even accidentally hung up on a consulting associate who merrily greeted me that way! (in fairness, the call didn’t connect properly)
Within a week of being wedded in Winnipeg, I was on more planes and found myself in Singapore for some work related meetings. Which is only the tip of the iceberg so to speak as on the professional front as much has happened over the last few months:
- I was delighted to be back in Jakarta working on a project from September 2016 to December then back briefly in March and April 2017. Naturally this meant a few stops in Singapore in my crisscrossing back and forth between India and Indonesia…
- January and May were pre-occupied with India projects that enabled trips to Kolkata and Kochi – it had been years since I was in Kerela so that was a particular treat!
- February brought me to Delhi to co-facilitate a remarkable conference
- More is unfolding in the technology space with the India company association… plus some new developments brewing that seem particularly exciting!
Beyond the personal and professional, everyday life in India inspired a few amused cribs about:
- Ready or not, July 1st introduces India’s Goods & Services Tax with some absurd moments and migration migraines from Service Tax to GST
- After a couple of years of effort, I finally successfully withdrew my last Indian Provident Fund. If ever anyone has tried to do this – foreigner or Indian – you will understand this is NOT necessarily a simple process!
- After even more effort, a weird system error was finally corrected so that the Indian government was finally convinced I actually had paid my taxes in 2009. Really… honestly… I did… it only took 8 years for them to admit it!!
- We also learned to survive the aftermath of November 2016’s demonetization in which cash was temporarily dethroned
So from newly wedded bliss, professional developments, to the everyday follies in India, life continues to be an amazing adventure!
There you have… a bit of insight into what’s really going on…
There I was with an old friend and his partner, my partner and his old friends – who just so happened to know each other.
It is a small world like that.
My partner was in Kolkata to perform in a play.
I was in Kolkata to meet with my client and conduct focus group discussions with their team.
It wasn’t an accident we were in Kolkata at the same time. One commitment sparked another and thankfully nothing got in the way.
So that Sunday evening, we came out after the play to meet our friends, enjoying the slight nip in the air…
I could not have been happier.
For me, Bengali is one of those languages that I do not speak but I was immersed in enough consider it a familiar friend. It is the sound of one of my many past homes… the home where I lived in the 90s as a student in Chittaranjan Park, Delhi.
And Bengali food is something that once upon a time was what would constitute a regular home cooked meal.
The setting? A piece of history.
While the Tollygunge club was officially founded in 1895, the Club House was built even earlier and is now over 220 years old. What was once home to Tipu Sultan’s son and a member of the East India Company now is where our friends come out to enjoy their day or night.
Rather than be a stuffy relic, ‘Tolly’ is where families and friends go to entertain and be entertained, relax and re-invigorate…
It is a nice reminder that things do change… yet also retain elements of days gone by.
It was also a time to reflect…
Looking at a friend I’ve known for more than 20 years, it was clear that I’m not the same person I was back in early 1995 when we first met.
However I would not be the person I am today without all the ups and downs, rights and lefts that occurred in between.
So though Bengal is no longer a core element of my everyday today in a way that it was living in a Bengali home in a Bengali colony, hearing Bengali, eating Bong khanna, listening to Bengali music… these experiences are all intrinsically part of me, not just my past but indelibly part of who I will always be.
And for that I am thankful. It was indeed a ‘Tolly’ good evening!
After a bit of a hiatus, time to bring back a quarterly summary of what’s been happening.
In real life, there have been a few fairly momentus changes in the last few months. Most are ones I don’t tend to talk about. Bottom line is I had to leave India to change my visa… thankfully was successful!
There were many hopeful moments of a return to Indonesia or Malaysia or other opportunities that have finally materialized with a project in Jakarta starting later this month!
I also had my first article published on Scroll.in :
I’ve lightly alluded to a pre-occupation with changing over my visa which has impacted the entire way I’ve approached continuing to keep India my base.
Short answer – I am now the proud holder of an Indian work visa! (and there was much rejoicing!!!)
Even better, I am very fortunate to partner with a company that enabled the best of both worlds – primarily support their growth while not closing the door on relevant consulting assignments in India that can be routed via their firm.
Even more remarkable, the actual submission and obtaining was relatively painless. (more on that later!) (more…)