Despite having a considerable distance to traverse before achieving a spot among the top ten global cities, New Delhi is undeniably a destination that beckons visitors with its charm and allure. I know that it’s true because, on September 24, 2018, I embarked on a journey of 1,288 miles to New Delhi with three of my closest friends for a work-related conference, and what followed was an unexpected and unforgettable experience. Join me in this collective chronicle of the people we met, the ups and downs we faced, and the memories that will linger forever in our hearts. [In Pic: A photograph I took while enjoying the serene charm of New Delhi’s cool evening breeze as we took a leisurely walk in South Avenue, with the magnificent Presidential Palace looming in the distance.]
An epitome of a Shepherd
I understand that the focus of this chronicle lies not upon us, but upon my memories of New Delhi. Yet, I cannot help but give a heartfelt shoutout to our team leader Nimendra James, who exemplified the very essence of a true shepherd during the tour. Without his unwavering guidance and support, our stay in the city would not have been as enriching and fulfilling as it was. “Kudos to you, Pastor Nimendra!”
A White Knuckle Pilgrim
On a crisp Monday morning, September 24th, 2018, we embarked on our journey from the bustling Bandaranaike International Airport. As we made our way to our seats, we couldn’t help but notice the diverse array of fellow passengers boarding the flight. Among them, a group of countryside travellers, seemingly on a pilgrimage to Dambadiva, caught our attention.
They appeared calm and content as they settled into their seats, but as the plane began to ascend, their excitement grew palpable. Then came the moment of tickling fancy. To our amusement, and perhaps to the annoyance of the flight attendants, one of the ladies whom I decided to call the white knuckle pilgrim wanted to switch seats, causing a bit of a stir.
As the plane soared higher into the sky, we couldn’t help but feel a sense of excitement and wonder for the journey ahead. Although the unexpected seat switch caused a bit of unrest among the flight crew, for us it was just the beginning of the many surprises and delights that lay in store for us on this unforgettable journey.
A Fly in the Ointment
Picture this: We landed at the “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport” in Bombay for transit, but little did we know what lay ahead. While Nimendra, a seasoned traveller, passed through customs with ease, Denci, Rukshan, and I were called into a room behind the passport counter and asked to pass through a “Walk-Through” metal detector. Our excitement quickly turned to dismay as the detector continuously issued a warning every time we passed through it. The results remained the same even after being searched with handheld metal detectors by customs officials.
What came next was a “Fly in the Ointment” moment, as we were taken to an inner room and asked to remove our outer clothing for a more thorough search. Despite this unpleasant experience, we remained confident and did not let it crush our joyful spirits. It was the first time we had travelled outside of Sri Lanka, and although the customs process was more rigorous than expected, we were determined to make the most of our journey ahead. After landing in New Delhi, that night we retired to our hotel, gathered together, huddled closely and shared stories about the day’s unexpected incident. Laughter filled the air as we joked and reminisced, our joyful spirits alive and well. We laughed so hard that our stomachs ached.
An Icon of Hospitality
During our travels, we had the opportunity to encounter a diverse array of individuals, each with their own unique personality and traits. While some were a true delight to meet, others left us with an unpleasant taste in our mouths, such as the taxi driver who chauffeured us from the airport to our hotel. Despite his friendliness, he ended up taking us on a wild goose chase, resulting in a hefty and unfair fee. To make matters worse, his suggestive comments regarding the procurement of sex workers hinted at a far more unsavoury side to his character.
Of all the delightful people we had the pleasure of meeting, one individual truly stood out: none other than Victor, the Manager on Duty. As we arrived at the hotel, he welcomed us with an extravagant display of hospitality, which we didn’t expect from a 3 Star Boutique Hotel. His warmth, charm, and professionalism left an indelible mark on us, and we couldn’t have been more impressed by his exceptional service.
Though the name of the hotel has since escaped my memory, Victor whom I call the icon of hospitality still remains etched in my mind. As our stay drew to a close, Nimendra asked what the most outstanding aspect of accommodation was, and without fail, the answer was always the same: Victor. It’s impossible to disagree, for that middle-aged man’s unwavering dedication to ensuring our comfort and satisfaction truly made our stay a memorable one.
FYI: Subsequently, I was able to extract the longitude and latitude coordinates from the metadata of a photograph that was taken at the hotel. I fed the information into Google Maps, which accurately pinpointed the location as Colonels’ Retreat. (The hotel used to be near Dwarka, Sector 8, Metro Station when we arrived. It has moved since.)
Taking in the Sights
India, a land of rich cultural heritage, boasts a wealth of breathtaking sights to behold. Even amidst the hustle and bustle of New Delhi, one can find countless wonders that are truly worth seeing. During our brief stay, on the 25th and 26th we visited some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, including Jantar Mantar, The Red Fort, and India Gate. Despite the somewhat foreboding connotations associated with the term “mantar” in my native language (black magic, magic spell), Jantar Mantar is a remarkable collection of astronomical instruments constructed entirely from stone, dating back to the 18th century as per the rich history described in Wikipedia. It was no surprise to us to find that the site was teeming with visitors, eager to glimpse this marvel of engineering and ingenuity.
Our next destination was the awe-inspiring Red Fort, an enormous structure spanning over 254.67 acres that stands out amidst the bustling cityscape. As we made our way through the gates, however, I found myself transported back in time to the era of the Mughal Emperors, completely removed from the fast-paced modern world. It’s a sensation that defies simple explanation, so mysterious and captivating that words alone fail to capture its true essence.
The atmosphere was undeniably intense, with tourists haggling with street vendors inside the fort, yet amidst it all, I couldn’t help but sense an invasive feeling of solitude in the ghostly atmosphere that was dominant everywhere. It was so powerful that it quickly synchronized with the loneliness within me, and for those few hours spent exploring the fort, I became one with its spirit, lost in a world of my own.
India Gate was the last site we visited. As I beheld the 42-meter-high monument at night, it stirred in me a sense of awe and wonder, as if I stood before a mystical portal to a parallel universe. The memory of that moment still lingers vividly in my mind. Years later, as I watched a documentary about India on Fox Channel with my brother, the majestic India Gate flashed on the screen, and I couldn’t help but exclaim, ‘India Gate!’ My brother turned to me and asked, ‘Have you been there, bro?’ With a swelling heart and a beaming smile, I proudly replied, ‘Yes, I have, and it’s a memory that will last me a lifetime!’
So if you find yourself in New Delhi, be sure to prioritize a visit to the sites I’ve mentioned. They’re easily reachable via both public and private transportation. These attractions are truly worthy of your time and effort. Give them the attention they deserve and you’ll be rewarded with unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime. To top it off, these amazing places are situated close to each other, leaving you with no excuse not to pay them a visit. So, drop any excuses and seize the opportunity to experience their magnificence firsthand! Don’t miss out on the chance to explore these remarkable places and be inspired!
A Taste of New Delhi
Someone said, “To truly savour the essence of a city, one must indulge in its street food.” New Delhi is not an exception. For quite some time now, I have been aware of New Delhi’s incredible street food saga, but it wasn’t until my time in the city that I was able to fully confirm its richness and diversity. The street food culture in this city is simply unmatched, making even the fine cuisine served at renowned establishments like Vivanta by Taj and Colonel’s Retreat pale in comparison.
The flavours were so exquisite that I found myself lost in the moment, too absorbed in savouring every bite to snap photographs. Meanwhile, Rukshan, a professional photographer, couldn’t help but capture the mesmerizing colours and textures of the food, his lens captured the essence of this culinary wonderland without a break. The delectable street food that tantalized our taste buds during our sojourn in New Delhi has etched an indelible mark on our memories, as we still reminisce about those scrumptious delights to this very day.
Painting the Town Red
Next, we stumbled upon a bustling festival ground, a sprawling carnival that overflowed with an array of street food, enchanting melodies, captivating performances, and a plethora of other entertainment options. This too is a wonderful memory except for the smelly mobile urinal units that were an unpleasant encounter.
It was here that my ears were graced with the soulful melody of “Thunder,” a hit single by the American Pop/Rock sensation Imagine Dragons that resonated deeply within my heart and mind. After returning to Colombo, I couldn’t resist setting it up as my “RingIn Tone”. Since then, countless people who have called me have expressed their appreciation for the song.
The Chariot of Death
Having just talked about the people, food, and entertainment of Delhi, let’s now delve into its vibrant chaos. What better exemplifies the frenzied side of a city in South Asia than its traffic? When talking about the chaotic traffic in New Delhi, it would be remiss not to mention the Chariot of Death. It was on the morning of the 25th, around 10:15 AM, that we set out from Colonel’s Retreat for a day of sightseeing. As we scanned the streets, our eyes fell upon a peculiar sight – a Motor Rickshaw. In the days of colonial rulers, human-pulled rickshaws were a common sight in India. However, the Motor Rickshaw we spotted was quite different. As its name suggests, it was a type of rickshaw powered by an internal combustion engine.
In a nutshell, we embarked on the ride of our lives with a middle-aged driver at the helm. From the moment the engine roared to life, our silent pleas for survival echoed in our minds until we reached our destination. This daredevil had no regard for traffic rules, and to add to our anxiety, he drove his Motor Rickshaw on the opposite side of the road the entire journey. As we alighted from the vehicle, an overwhelming sense of gratitude washed over us for still being alive. The moment I stepped away from that menacing Motor Rickshaw, I knew it had to be dubbed with a fitting title: the Chariot of Death.
As Iron sharpens Iron
Let’s delve into the crux of our tour, the Conference conducted by the Indian Christian Media Association. The workshops conducted were categorized into four pivotal areas – Social Media, Audio & Video Editing, Production Management, and Media Management. While Nimendra delved into the intricacies of Media Management, Denci absorbed the knowledge of Production and Rukshan was keen on Audio & Video Editing. As for myself, I attended the Social Media workshops, as it was my forte at work. The Hotel Vivanta by Taj served as the venue for this event.
Esteemed speakers ranging from experts to members of the Christian clergy in India graced the occasion with their presence. Among them were Rev. Satish Kumar (Founder, Calvary Temple), Dr Anand Pillai (MD, Leadership Matters Inc.) and many others whose names I can’t remember now. What matters is that We were so empowered and inspired by the knowledge we acquired at the conference that we came back to Colombo with a fresh perspective and a game plan that we implemented in our work in the years that followed. We used the insights and ideas we gained from the conference to bring new life and innovation to our projects.
A few Parting Words
We had a few more plans in mind, but unfortunately, they never came to fruition. Visiting the iconic Taj Mahal was one of them, but the distance of approximately 220-230 kilometres from New Delhi to Agra made it challenging, especially considering the exorbitant cost of going there by Uber. Meeting my dear friend Victor Gangai from Chennai was another plan, but the aerial distance of 1,760 kilometres between New Delhi and Chennai made it impractical, given our six-day itinerary.
The sight of the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) Building in this foreign land was like finding a breath of fresh air after wandering in a parched wilderness. It was a welcome and recognizable sight in an otherwise unfamiliar terrain. Although I couldn’t spare any time to step inside, I was quick to capture a few pictures of the place with my phone. Moving around by the Underground Metro Train proved to be yet another exhilarating experience. While waiting for our train, Rukshan’s spirits were lifted to new heights when he met the National Indian Karate team.
My journey to the chaotic yet beautiful city of Delhi is a treasure trove of memories, but even if we could harness the power of all the server farms in the world, it still wouldn’t be enough to store them all. Henceforth, before concluding, let me recount two more memoirs. In my home country, I have always struggled to make friends due to my introverted nature. During the conference, however, I was able to break out of my shell and connect with a new acquaintance named Robin Chauhan. Although we never got the chance to meet again in person, we are keeping in touch through Facebook to this day.
We returned to Colombo via Bombay on September 29th. While waiting for the flight my eyes were drawn to a masterpiece of a book that I have been searching for quite some time. It’s none other than “Mossad: The Greatest Missions of the Israeli Secret Service” by Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal. In addition to my purchase of the former, I also acquired “Spy Chronicles: Raw ISI and the Illusion of Peace” by A.S. Dulat, Asad Durrani, and Aditya Sinha, but it pales in comparison to “Mossad”
In this captivating book, you can explore the daring and audacious missions of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency. The authors provide a comprehensive look at Mossad’s operations, from its earliest days to the present, including the capture of Adolf Eichmann, the assassination of terrorists responsible for the Munich Olympic massacre, and the destruction of Iraq’s nuclear reactor using Stuxnet. Drawing on extensive research and interviews with Mossad operatives, the authors offer a behind-the-scenes look at how these missions were planned and executed.
That is in addition to insights into the agency’s culture and approach to intelligence gathering and covert operations. With a gripping narrative style that captures the reader’s attention from beginning to end, this well-written book is a must-read for anyone interested in intelligence operations and covert missions. It provides a unique perspective on Mossad’s operations and sheds light on its role in Israeli history, making it a fascinating read for those intrigued by one of the world’s most enigmatic intelligence agencies.
Were you aware that before this tour, the mere idea of being in India made me uneasy? Nevertheless, the five days I spent in the embrace of New Delhi transformed my outlook on her indefinitely. Consider adding a visit to the splendid city of New Delhi to your bucket list, especially if you’ve yet to experience its incredible charm firsthand. In conclusion, my trip to the city was a life-changing experience that left an indelible mark on me. The trip was filled with ups and downs, surprises, and delightful encounters with the locals. The serene charm of New Delhi has left in me a sense of awe for a lifetime. It is a city of diverse cultures, vibrant colours, and bustling chaos, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have experienced it. My memories of her will linger forever in my heart, and I hope to return someday to continue exploring her remarkable cityscape.
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