Tales From Delhi

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January 25th 2013
Published: January 25th 2013EDIT THIS ENTRY

“You and me, sir, best friends! You call me, ten minutes, I’ll be there.”

That was the send-off I received from my tuk-tuk driver as he dropped me off at the Delhi National Rail Museum on a bright, sunny Sunday morning. I’d only known him for half and hour but his greeting was typical of the friendliness I experience every day here in this city. I’ve been here for almost a month now, and I admit that I have been remiss on writing my blog but the days just seem to blend into each other. Before I realized it, I am already into my fourth week and I thought it was time to say hello and share some photographs. Outside my bedroom window, wild parrots are squawking in the trees and the traffic noise threatens to drown out their birdsong - a typical morning. Just like Mumbai, Delhi is a city of too many vehicles but the roads here are wider and tree-lined so it’s a more relaxed feeling. Seven lanes still cram into three, that hasn’t changed, but my commute to work is minutes rather than hours. In Mumbai, we didn’t pass a forest where the monkeys run free either! The first Delhi Starbucks opened today in the Domestic Terminal of Indira Gandhi International Airport … but I’m getting ahead of myself . Let’s rewind to the first week in January and the beginnings of my journey.

My adventure began on January 2nd as I arrived at Mumbai Airport for a one-day stay in the metropolis while I completed my medical examinations, a requirement for anyone working in the food service industry. I was here as part of Star Team India, a group of Starbucks Partners from around the world brought together to open an international market. We would train the staff to not only open the new stores but also to train their fellow Partners as they opened more stores. I would be here for eight weeks and would spend a considerable amount of time in the new stores as they opened so this was a non-negotiable. Jumping in the car with Adam, a store manager from San Diego, we went to the imposing medical building and began our day by giving a urine sample and ‘that other’ sample which I sure I don’t need to describe. As the assistant kept reminding us, “It’s compulsory!” We had to take our shoes and socks off for the vision test, something I’m still not sure I understand, and the plate we had to stand against for our chest x-ray was FREEZING but the time passed quickly and we had our clean bill of health. It was time for Delhi and we were off to the airport … where I chose the wrong terminal! Quickly grabbing a passing taxi, Adam and I lashed our bags to the top of the car and sped off to the Domestic Terminal where we made it with minutes to spare! Finally, we were on our way to Delhi!

(A short aside: I grew up referring to this city as New Delhi but when I arrived, and had time to find my bearings, I quickly realized that Old and New Delhi are distinctly different. The New part is wide boulevards and roundabouts, tree-lined lanes and Georgian architecture; Old is centuries-old twisty-turny roads and side streets with stores and markets which have been here for centuries! Chandni Chowk deserves a blog all its own - more of that later. The British occupation left its mark but this city has an amazing energy and vibrance. True, on bad days you can cut the smog with a knife but you don’t notice it after awhile. Honest…)

After checking into our hotel, we met Joel and Ryan, partners from the Pacific Northwest who had been here since before Christmas to begin the training of the Indian Partners for the new stores. Along with Jared, my friend from my Mumbai days, we were made to feel welcome and decided to venture out to see some of the sights before we started work properly. First stop, Red Fort, a 17th century fort complex constructed by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan in the walled city of Old Delhi. It was here I first encountered a tourist practice of which I heartily approve. Foreigners pay 250 rupees to enter, Indian nationals pay 20 - I think that’s great! After Red Fort, we wandered the streets of Chandni Chowk where we drank some chai and just absorbed the noise, the language and the sights before heading back to the hotel. Tomorrow we would start training … but I’ll leave that to my next blog. See ya.

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