KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
When we arrived in Delhi earlier in the month, we learned that Anil's brother, Ajay has leave from his duties as a Colonel in the Army until Dec 10th. Ajay is currently stationed in Srinagar, Kashmir, while his wife Neeta continues with her job as a teacher in Delhi. We decided to return to Delhi to spend time with Ajay and Neeta while they are together in Delhi.
We flew back to Delhi on a flight with SpiceJet - it left a couple of hours late but at least we were very comfortable in the relatively new Mumbai domestic airport. The flight was uneventful, except for the fact that just before take-off, the stewardess came to speak to the couple seated in front of us. It turns out that they were headed to Goa and had boarded the wrong SpiceJet flight. They should never have been able to board the plane, but at least the flight crew caught the mistake in time. Just imagine the shock of heading for the beach in Goa and finding yourself in New Delhi where the low temperature tonight is expected to be 8 degrees.
Ajay and Neeta were at the airport to meet us and we drove back to their apartment in the military Cantonment area of Delhi. After such a busy time in Mumbai, it was great to come to our Delhi home and settle into a quiet routine. I have had some time to work on this journal in between eating Neeta's terrific cooking and taking long walks through the well-groomed roads on the military base.
The day before yesterday we went for a ride on the Metro - built during the last couple of years. It is a modern, clean rail system that was completed ahead of schedule - something that is hard to believe in India. Indeed, there are many changes in the city, all which have made it a much better place to visit and I am sure a better place to live in as well. They have built many new highways, traffic interchanges and ring roads, but the biggest change for me to witness is the change from diesel to CNG (compressed natural gas) in all commercial vehicles. This has made Delhi a city where one can breathe once again. My last trip here was in 1999 and we vowed never to return if the pollution stayed as bad. That's not to say that the pollution problem is completely solved, but we can see the blue sky again and we no longer get the infamous "Delhi throat" within days of arriving here.
We rode the Metro to its northern most point - the station near the Delhi University. Here we boarded an "auto" rickshaw for the short ride to Anil's old college - St. Stephen's. It was here that Anil studied for his BSc and MSc in Physics. We had come here once before together, in 1991, and Anil was curious to see what changes may have been made to the college in the intervening fifteen years. On our previous visit, Anil found the college almost completely unchanged, and we even took a photograph of Anil with the two young male students who occupied his old dorm room in N Block. This time as we walked toward the entrance to the N Block, we were stopped by the guard. He informed us that N Block was now a women's residence. He asked Anil if he was an "old boy" and was delighted to learn that he was. Anil graduated in 1968, and the guard had not been around in those old days, but he called another guard to meet us. It turns out the second guard is the son of the man who was responsible for N Block all those years ago and the three of then talked and reminisced for some time.
We then headed to the back of the campus because we needed to check on the 'old gate' there. When we had come to St. Stephen's in 1991, Anil was pretty subdued about the whole place until he saw the creaky old gate that lead from the college grounds to the student canteen across the small lane at the back. When he saw the gate, all the old memories came flooding back and he exclaimed "It's the same gate, it's the same gate!". To this day, our son Raj and daughter Adia tease their Papa about his excitement that day. In fact, when we told Raj that we were going to St. Stephen's again, he emailed us to - "check to see if it's the same GATE!!!!"
Well, as you will see from the photo I took of Anil passing through the gate - it's the same Anil, but a different gate. It seems that they felt they had to build a super high, super sturdy new gate to keep the lechers away from the female students now attending St. Stephen's College. We were a little disappointed, but it was another reminder that time marches on.