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We landed in Delhi in the evening of August 2 after flying almost twenty hours from San Francisco with a layover and plane change in Abu Dhabi. Delhi is, in a word, crazy, and it has changed a great deal since I was there thirty-two years ago, as has all of India. During our four days there we stayed with my friend, my grandfather’s former student, Ashok, in a three-story house in southern Delhi where he, his wife, and their son and daughter-in-law live. While battling mosquitoes and the thick, muggy heat (we'd all had the requisite vaccinations, were taking our anti-malaria meds, and slathering on DEET-heavy bug spray) we tried to balance kids’ interests with adults’. We walked around the elegant and expansive Indian government buildings designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens as an expression of England’s colonial might; visited sixteenth century Mughal Emperor Humayun's tomb - a lovely, gated oasis but oh-so-hot; wandered around a well-to-do shopping district called Khan Market where we all bought books at Bahri Sons Bookstores; and lunched on succulent lamb kebabs and seekhs at Khan Chacha.

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e also made a quick stop at Connaught Place to buy some sandals for Michael, took refuge from the crowds inside the National Museum with its incredible collection of miniature paintings and sculptures, and ate a delicious, cooling lunch of Southern Indian food at sophisticated Cafe Lota in the Crafts Museum. The memory of Pala Pakka Chaat – crispy spinach leaves, potatoes, chickpeas topped with spiced yogurt and chutneys lingers with me still. Through India Someday - a company based in Mumbai which organized the hotels, cars, trains, and internal flights for the abridged retracing of my original four-month journey = we'd arranged a car to take us most of the way from Delhi through Rajasthan to Ahmedabad. Shakir drove us skillfully first to Agra. The Taj Mahal was breathtaking in its luminous, geometric grandeur despite the killing heat. We stayed overnight at the swanky Radisson Hotel which the girls loved after enduring Delhi’s deprivations. Next morning, we went on to Fatehpur Sikri, where we walked through the majestic, sun-baked remains of the palace there, and then on to the charming-yet -faded Hotel Diggi Palace in Jaipur. There I'd arranged for a tour guide whom my well-heeled brother and sister-in-law had urged us to contact: an earthy, soulful woman named Varsha. I really liked her - she was highly experienced but also warm, even-tempered and wise.

Varsha told us how to handle the touts and trinket-sellers who would greet us at the Amber Fort, and steered us to where we boarded painted elephants that lumbered up the narrow, high-walled road to the central courtyard. Michael and I loved the elephant ride; our daughters didn't - go figure. Varsha then walked us through the fort, explaining an inlay of mirrored pieces here, the hidden signatures of marble carvers there, and the daily habits of the maharajas and maharanis. Afterwards, at our request, she took us to the main stretch of street markets where the girls bought block-printed hangings typical of Jaipur, and then to lunch at a good family-style restaurant-cum-bakery where she helped us order the best items from the menu, from starters through dessert. The next morning we caught a 6am train for a four hour ride to Jodhpur, where we stayed at the stunning Raas Hotel, hidden away like a jewel in the old city. The beautifully designed Raas looks onto the expanse of the Mehrangarh Fort which spreads out on a cliff top above Jodhpur’s indigo-washed houses, where in the evenings small brightly colored kites bounce in the breeze. Our daughters were ecstatic about the pool and sleek sandstone walls softened by artful landscaping: perfect backdrops for their selfies. Both girls took a day off from sightseeing and stayed on the hotel grounds while Michael and I braved the heat and took a winding, cobbled, stepped path up to the fort. It was well worth the sweat. We saw rooms filled with gilded miniatures, mainly of the maharajas at play with their innumerable consorts, bejeweled palanquins, and intricately carved marble screens through which maharanis viewed the outside world. After brief stops at Ranakpur’s Jain Temple, where we had the pleasure of being trapped in a thunderous monsoon downpour, and cool, placid Udaipur, the second portion of the trip was spent in Ahmedabad and Pondicherry, which I promised my family would be a break from the prior days’ intensity. Ahmedabad is a city rich in culture and innovation where we met up with many old friends doing exciting work in environmental conservation, textile design, architecture, dance, and education, paid homage to Gandhi at the Sabarmati Ashram, visited one of Le Corbusier’s most famous and stunning buildings, the ATMA Building, and got to see firsthand how SEWA (the Self Employed Women’s Association) has been empowering women since 1972 in both cities and villages. In Pondicherry, we visited my hosts of thirty years ago.

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Gev Magazine Issue 17.0  

New Delhi based Fashion Designer Sha Ali Ahmad of Ahmad Couture— better known as ‘Sha', is sparkling his way through the fashion world with...

Gev Magazine Issue 17.0  

New Delhi based Fashion Designer Sha Ali Ahmad of Ahmad Couture— better known as ‘Sha', is sparkling his way through the fashion world with...