Delhi to Bikaner

As Jet Airways Flight 262 from Kathmandu was landing in Delhi, I looked out of the right window in search of familiar landmarks: first the Jamuna barrage, then the sewage-treatment pond and finally the concrete petals of the Baha'i temple. But this time, I was staring down at an unfamiliar landscape – the only recognisable feature was ruined fortifications, which had to be the Purana Quila. The confusion was cleared up after touchdown. The fancy new international terminal at the Indira Gandhi International Airport is not yet ready, but the new runaway has been put to use. As a result, the approach now requires aircrafts to fly further south, and hence the view of the old fort ruins.

Travel to Delhi, whether there is a view or not, always introduces a momentary panic in my mind, a programming that goes back to the summer of 1975. A law student venturing out from Patna, en route from Kathmandu to the great Indian metropolis, detrains in the Old Delhi Railroad Station, is fleeced by three-wheeler autorickshaws, and finally arrives at Delhi University's Jubilee Hall hostel to learn that there is no accommodation. Then there is the search for a chattri in nearby Timarpur Township, across Mall Road, which is also the Grand Trunk Road. A small-town boy lost in the big city, like so many others. And the first-time experience of the bone-bleaching heat of the plains, and no one tell about it.

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Himal Southasian