My first few days in India were full of excitement and memories. Landing in Delhi early in the morning on the 27th of October we were picked up by the hotel car and driven to our hotel, the Taj Palace.
Outside of our photography adventures in Orissa, where the hotels are picked by our guide, we plan on mostly staying in Taj hotels. One of the reasons we picked the Taj Palace Delhi was it was our first home in India twenty two years ago. We lived in the hotel for one month while we waited for our house to be set up.
The hotel itself is quite impressive, with a grand lobby, beautiful crystal chandeliers and Indian embroidery, floral arrangements and white marble walls and floors. When I was young the large lobby was my playroom. I would sit on the floor, in front of one of the coffee tables and take my parents orders of invisible cappuccinos. Sometimes, if I was lucky I would also get to buy an eclair as a snack. Eclairs were my favourite because I thought they were named after me.
Just down the road from the Taj Palace is the American Embassy School, where I attended preschool and kindergarten. I can remember learning sign language in class, swimming and playing on the fields. What I didn’t remember however was the very large fence, that surrounds the school and the high levels of security (that were probably always there but in a lesser degree in the early 1990s). From the outside you can see very little of the school, save for some very plain stone walls.
While out exploring Mom and I attempted to visit the school, just to take a picture out front, but because of security measures cars cannot stop in front of the school and you can’t take any pictures outside. So the only picture I managed to get was of the street sign through my car window as we drove by. Luckily I still have my own memories from my days at AES so it wasn’t a total loss. Somewhere in my house is a memory box with a teeny tiny gym uniform with the American Embassy School crest on it.
The last big Delhi memory is of my childhood home. We used to live in a big pink stucco house in the middle of a T-junction in a residential part of New Delhi called Vashat Vihar. There was a shanty town down the street to the right of our house and a park at the end of the road straight ahead from our front gate. On my birthday my parents would rent elephants and they would come down the street to give me a ride around the neighbourhood, nibbling on the leaves of the trees as they went.
Now the street is quite narrow and redeveloped. Our house, we were surprised and amused to find, is now completely redone as the High Commission of Botswana and I can’t imagine an elephant fitting comfortably down the road without crushing a few nice cars or drivers. There is also a subway station just up the road now, so that you can take the metro into the core of the city for work or to visit friends and all the houses look brand new.
Visiting Delhi brought my memories back to life and reminded me of a time when travel didn’t seem like a special thing but just part of my everyday life. I have no doubt that being so little abroad is what ignited my love for exploring and adventure. Visiting India’s capital was a colourful experience and I wonder how much it will change before I get to visit again.