As we acclimate to our current home of Kirtipur, I am beginning to get to know the village and find more comfort each day. Our first stop in Delhi brought the same feelings of discomfort initially followed by the gradual appreciation that grew more each day. My appreciation for Delhi resulted from an adventure filled day with my grandfather.
My grandfather Robert Howell, an architect from San Francisco, designs metro stations in developing countries. Although he has only worked in Delhi for the past few years, he spent the last fifteen years working on rapid transit stations all over Asia. Grandpa Bob will work for three to four months at a time, go home for a month or two and then return to his projects abroad. My family and I always discuss where Grandpa Bob is and what he is doing. On this one day in Delhi I was able to see what keeps my grandfather abroad for most of the year. ..
After a church service at the CS society in Delhi on Sunday morning, my grandfather and I set out to explore the city. Delhi has become one of my grandfather’s favorite cities and he was eager to show it to me. We began the day by picking up a few things I forgot to bring, a pillow case, blanket, granola bars, etc. As we drove through the different areas Grandpa Bob would point out the interesting parts of each neighborhood. One thing I love about spending time with Grandpa Bob is that he cannot suppress the architect talk. We would pass one building and he would I identify the building type, construction date, economic status of the institution/residence and architect information. We would zoom by another building and Grandpa Bob would describe. One building after another. After a few hours with Grandpa Bob I was able to identify many Delhi neighborhoods and the economic status of different housing districts.
At each stop we would walk around, go into shops, interact with some people and then hop back into the tiny car and scoot off to the next place. A highlight of the day was spending little moments with Ankit, my grandfather’s driver. If you have ever been to Delhi you already know that outsiders would not last very long on the road. Ankit was a soft-spoken young Indian man who worked for a driving company. He has been with my grandfather for some time and their interactions together are fun to watch. Ankit’s sweet nature and knowledge of the city combined with Grandpa Bob’s destinations and subtle humor provide for some interesting conversations.
Ankit took us all over the city bringing us to Sagar South restaurant in Defence Colony Market, Malik Bros. Supermarket, Khan Market, shops Fabindia and Good Earth, Cottage Emporium, Connault Place, INA Station (a newly open metro station that my grandfather helped design), Dilli Haat, Saket, City Walk and Spice Market restaurant. Ankit definitely put some miles on the company car throughout the day.
Our day ended with a wonderful dinner at Spice Market, an upscale Indian restaurant, with a colleague of Grandpa Bob named Rashmee (forgive my spelling) and her husband Arun. Our three hour dinner consisted of pre-appetizers, appetizers, main course buffet and two rounds of desserts. My adapting stomach definitely got a workout. During that one dinner conversation I learned more about India than I had during our entire week in India. Rashmee and Arun, newlyweds of seven months, told me about their wedding, Indian politics, language, profession, fashion and more.
I was so grateful for my day with Grandpa Bob because Delhi became more personalized and understandable. Before Delhi was a hot, confusing, overwhelming place to me and my one day of learning from the people of Delhi brought a whole new perspective.
I look forward to the lessons that will come from each stop on our abroad. Yes, I will try to skip some of the initial discomfort that I seem to experience with each new location and jump straight into loving it. I don’t know if I’m quite there yet. I’m working on it. Although I thought I had learned this lesson already, each place we go will be challenging in its own way but always has a unique goodness to it that is waiting to be found.
And onward we go….