Sunday, January 18, 2009

Life on the planet of South Delhi

At left is Shish-Gumbad, or Dome of Glass, a stone-faced 15th century backdrop to the pastoral Sunday picnics in Lodhi Gardens, a 90-acre oasis named for the Lodhi dynasty whose rulers are buried in the stone tombs. Families batted cricket balls, played charades, ate and laughed. Small groups dotted the neat green lawns, while in the nearby woods, couples canoodled under the shade of tall trees.

Am I in India? Certainly not the same India where I taught English to child brides who borrowed shoes to wear to school. Then again, there were no villagers partaking in the multicourse lunch at the Garden Restaurant at Lodhi, with a bonaza buffet that--banish thoughts of chana masala and papadum--featured raw-tuna salad, grilled prawns and a juice bar stocked with beets, carrots, orange and coconuts. The adult bar advertised bloody mary shots and mulled wine (it is winter here, albeit 70 degrees). While a DJ played Moby and Frank Sinatra, a fat-cheeked caucasion toddler stumbled past the table of an academic type in black rimmed glasses drank red wine with his bejewelled companion.

The security guard below Looks Salon in Khan Market, where I took an autorickshaw to from Lodi, looked skeptical at anyone sans designer handbag, aside from raggedy foreigners like me. I left a lot less raggedy, thanks to an hour-long scalp massage, threading, a mani-pedi and a blow dry. The total? Dollars-speaking, pretty cheap for Maryland's Towson Town Center. In rupees? More than a week's salary for an office worker in Delhi--or, months and months and months of carrying stones on one's head to a road in Rajasthan.

Feeling more respectable, I strolled on to inspect the shops of Khan Market. By day, it's the ex-patriot's shopping center of choice, so you have a Citibank, handmade stationary shop, and an excellent book store. On the market's other side, there is Etam lingerie, the Body Shop, and the meticulously-tailored dresses, shimmery salwar kameze and sophisticated jewelry of Ritika Bhasin by Rahul Popli. Nearby, an 8500 Rs. ($175) leather handbag caught my attention at Rana Gill, but I think I'll stick to H&M. South Delhi is too posh for me.


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