Thursday, 30 September 2010

Very Delhi: My Trip to India

As I queued at the BA check-in for my flight to Delhi, I was handed my boarding pass. To my astonishment, I suddenly realised I had been upgraded to first class! I can only imagine that my set of Globetrotter luggage had swayed it or perhaps it was my immaculately cut Hackett men's blazer? Either way, I was thrilled to say the least.

As someone who is not partial to long haul flights, I was now actually looking forward to my ten hour trip, safe in the knowledge that I would be pampered all the way - and I wasn't disappointed.

I was heading to Delhi for the opening of the first Hackett shop in India in The Collective, a recently opened shopping mall that contains luxury brands from all over world, so we would be in good company.

As I walked out of the airport, nothing could have prepared me for the intense heat. It was as though I had just stepped into a sauna. I jumped into the first available taxi which turned out to be an Austin Ambassador, a model last seen in England in the 1950s. Whilst there was no air conditioning, the driver had cleverly rigged up a huge electric fan (again English circa 1950s!) that whirled and rattled noisily in the back of the cab, but it did the job. The driver was also keen to impress me with his grasp of the English language which he spoke in a polite and charming 1950s fashion.

I think that like most travellers to India, the initial shock of the spectacle of people living, cooking, sleeping and bringing up their children on the side of the street, I am embarrassed to say, soon passes.

It is quite apparent that the Indians like to party, and the festivities laid on for the opening of The Collective store within the mall were lavish, with more than 600 guests including famous Bollywood film directors and Indian fashion designers.

A fashion show was to be held. Lulu Guinness and I, who I had only met that day (and is a delightful lady, petite and not unlike Judy Garland in appearance), were to take part. It was to be part fashion show and part play. Lulu and I were given our lines to rehearse and we duly did our bit. Lulu was a real trouper, where as I will not being giving up the day job! It was all deemed a great success and was followed by the most delicious curry supper.

After several days of media interviews, hand shaking, flag waving and a little sightseeing (including afternoon tea at the Imperial Hotel - the first Lutyen's building in Delhi), it was time to leave.

As I headed to the airport in the most appalling traffic, accompanied by a cacophony of car horns and cattle wandering aimlessly in the middle of the road, there was a knock on my window and a young lad held up a glossy luxury magazine that he was selling. I quickly took a snap and passed him the remainder of my rupees.

I think that picture captures the huge divisions between the wealthy and the poor. As India emerges as an economic power, will they at last be able to pass on to their people the basic luxuries that we all take for granted?

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