Notes from a Delhi weekend

We had a wonderful weekend which was a sampling of the many Delhis which co-exist and blend seamlessly into one another. Saturday, we decided to be mall-rats post a heavy South Indian breakfast chez my parents. Ambi Mall, one of the newest and largest is walking distance, only you can't walk there because of the lack of footpaths and crazy traffic. We spent the morning hanging out there, visiting any one of dozens of international brand stores which have now learnt to stock the latest merchandise rather than dated stuff. Upstairs at the Barista in Debenhams, resting our tired feet over a hot cappucino, we gazed out at the Toll Plaza which was doing brisk business, scores of gleaming cars parked in orderly lines on each side. The wide, 16 laned approach to the toll plaza was sparkling clean and looked completely international, with high-speed traffic whizzing past.

We had also visited Select Citywalk a couple weekends ago and were truly impressed by the international ambience of the mall, the way it was laid out and most of all by the parking facilities. Someone had really thought about Indians and how they behave, how we orefer people to guide us, rather than looking at maps or road-signs. The parking was incredibly well-lit and had hordes of uniformed women who smartly pointed us in the right direction for turns, entries, exits and available parking spaces. The security personnel were politely guiding people towards the many banks of lifts and even helping couples struggling with strollers.

Sunday paved the way for one of the many delights of Delhi living in winter - a picnic. We'd been planning this out for a while but never with any definite date in mind so when our friend Ravi finally sms-ed that he had planned his annual picnic for this weekend, we were quite relieved. It was a pot-luck picnic at Lodi Gardens.

Picnics at Lodi Garden always bring back a hilarious memory from the pre-cellphone days. A whole bunch of us from grad school were in Delhi and one bright and energetic one organised a picnic at Lodi Garden 'near the big monument'. Now, if anyone has ever been to Lodi, they know the place has a historic momument every couple of feet or so. The entire gang arrived at the gardens separately, by any one of the eight or so different gates and then proceeded to spend an entire morning and afternoon engaged in a fruitless search for the rest of the gang. Yesterday, after we'd got there and found parking, I rang Ravi on his cell who told me where they were - the other end from where we had parked, so I counted the long walk as my treadmill stint for the day - and then we kept ringing back and forth to find the place. A and I wondered how people had managed before cellphones were invented!

Lodi is a wonderful place to go with the kids. Despite it being a lovely, sunny morning, the gardens weren't crowded and there were any number of sunny knolls in the midst of pine trees, with a picturesque historic monument a few feet away, to serve as idyllic picnic spots. The kids loved running about in the free space, tumbling in the grass, picking up miniature pine cones, watching the squirrels, hoopoes and mynahs which strutted all over the lawns...The warmth of the sun felt like a benison on the otherwise chilly day. Delhi is really blessed to have so many such gardens in the heart of the city, painstakingly and imaginatively managed by the MCD gardeners. If it had been Gurgaon, the garden would long ago have been razed to make way for a mall or office complex with no parking...

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