I was stuck in traffic. Nothing new in Delhi.
The city is plagued by traffic jams of epic proportions. Perhaps not as bad as Cairo, where midnight traffic jams are a constant occurrence, nevertheless, it’s a sprawling city and crossing it can take hours.
Waiting at traffic lights is a shopper’s paradise – if you like blow-up plastic dolls, bunches of roses, car window shades (handy) or… Vogue magazine.
There was a tap on the window and a little trader about 10 years old flashed a shiny, plastic-covered copy of this month’s India Vogue in my face. When I declined, he pulled out the big guns.
“GQ? House Beautiful? Look, madam, Elle Deco!”
Eventually, he left, to be replaced by another boy bearing an enormous pile of books – Paolo Cohelo, Dan Brown and Geoffrey Archer were lined up his arm, as well as Salman Rushdie’s fabulous Midnight’s Children and The White Tiger, winner of the 2008 Booker Prize by Aravind Adiga.
“But madam, The White Tiger!” entreated the lad. With no space in my bags, I declined, but he persisted while I was stuck at the longest lights change in living history, straining The White Tiger through the tiny crack of open car window. Beseiged by visions of my enormous luggage, I declined again.
Finally, I asked him, “Well, is it a good book?” He didn’t speak English, I reached for my wallet, the lights changed and I’m left bookless. Onward and upward, we continued on to the beautiful Lotus temple, a Ba’hai temple on the southern fringe of the city for some much-needed peace, meditation and damned fine architecture. Shades of Sydney Opera House, anyone?