Delhi, 21 years later


It is July 1990. It is hot. I am jet legged and travelled for 24 hours. First by train from Cremona to Roma. Then with an Air Jordan flight to Amman and connection to Delhi. I am with a group of four other friends and for me is the first time outside Europe. I am 23. My blue Invicta rucksack is the first to be delivered by the belts so I am sent out of the airport to check the bus situation. We are on a shoestring budget and a taxi is out of the question. I remember walking towards the sliding doors of the old international airport. Thinking that Rossignol, the character of the short story Notturno Indiano by Antonio Tabucchi that made us be here now, may have done the same (although he arrived in Mumbay). So I am walking, pass the nothing to declare desk. Few more steps and the sliding doors open. I remember hitting a heat wall when I stepped out. The rest is quite blurred an stereotyped: flies, an (imaginary I think) cow in the parking lot, old Ashok Leyland busses waiting for passengers, bajaj, many many taxi drivers jumping on me and the an overwhelming sense of too much taking control of me, making me turn around to re-enter the arrival terminal. Then I see me imploring the police officer to allow me in the exit door which in the end he allowed me to do. After that a long bus ride to the centre where I could barely keep my eyes open. The main railway station where me bought the India rail pass and the crazy and the incredibly long trip by train to Varanasi.

Today I landed in the new Terminal 3. Modern. Efficient. Silent. Carpeted corridors and huge Buddha hands decorating the passport control area. large parking lot. Skyways junctions. Large roundabout and three lanes roads to and from the airport. All is so modern. However as soon as with the hotel car we left the main road we entered the busy streets I remembered. Tiny shops and food stall with a single 100W bulb providing a trembling light. Bajaj, new aircon busses, traffic jams, people walking home wrapped in winter clothes and scarf covering their heads. Few metres from my modern hotel a tiny parking lot with a single dusty old Indian taxi which looks lost and abandoned. Next to it a small shack made of few bricks and wooden planks. Covered by a fragile plastic foil. Next to the door a child is warming up next to a fire where a pot is boiling water for the tea or rice. The same old Delhi 21 years later.