I step down from my time machine (United Airlines jet) into another world, another time. A world known as India. Yet there must be some mistake. What I see around me appears to be a blending of times rather than just one. Time has sprouted the many arms of the goddess Durga and simply drawn together disparate components of people, industry, place, and tradition to create a highly complicated and beautiful world.
What I see is sophisticated wealth, abject night-terror-inducing poverty, and a burgeoning middle class. This is the face of modern India. I am surrounded by mankind’s 21st Century accomplishments and humbled by centuries old writings and monuments to faith and hope.
Every turn my eye and mind make, I find a country of extremes.
We have only a few hours to discover Delhi. In truth to acclimate ourselves to travels across the entire country. Delhi feels to me, on this Sunday morning, not unlike any sort of smallish city. As the capital, it has the wide vistas and avenues predictably ending in monuments to Imperial India. The Indians have gone so far as to separate Old Delhi from new with the train track. Symbolism made into concrete infrastructure.
Families are out for a lovely day and every boy we see has a cricket bat in his hand. Cricket, the Indian equivalent of baseball and soccer. We visit a stunning spiritual center – an initial opportunity to drape ourselves in the respectful costume of a female mosque visitor.
And on our way to our next engagement, every turn, onto every smallish street, is a cornucopia for the eye. Vendors with herbs, household items, handiwork and my favorite: an entire street devoted to everything mechanical.
Before this, I would not have imagined a fond moment with my late father, Ken, passing along an auto parts street in Delhi. Yet maybe that is the true spirit, the magic connection of India, surrounded by spirits we cannot quite grasp.