How do you replicate Mumbai in Delhi?

That was the question on my lips early this morning as I sat shivering in 7C whilst checking the Mumbai temperature –  27C at 6.30am.  (Is that possible?  Or was my weather widget so frozen it couldn’t think straight?)

Be that as it may, the fact remains that in 10 days I shall be in Mumbai to run a half marathon and it is going to be hot & humid.  As opposed to miserably cold & foggy.  Bring it on, say I.

But one has to do a certain amount of preparation, and so today I piled on the warmies and ran at midday, hoping to feel hot and sweaty and something akin to 27C.  Replicate Mumbai, in other words.


Didn’t work.

There was such a bitter wind whipping along Raj Path that I regretted only having a long-sleeved thermal + a fleece + a bodywarmer + a hat, and not another fleece.  And a pair of gloves.

So, no worries Mumbai mere jaan, there is no way you can be replicated up here.

Having said that, there is still something to be said about running around India Gate and down Raj Path and up Raisina Hill…who am I kidding, it is utterly fabulous, and easily one of the best things in this city.  I got so spoiled over the summer, running at dawn on my own around India Gate, that it’s a bit of a shock to the system to have to fight your way through the crowds of visitors taking selfies.

As you can see from my GPS track log below, at the end of this post, I couldn’t run the full length of Raj Path.  Rehearsals are already taking place for Republic Day, and today it was the turn of school children marching to some very jolly Bolly music.  The announcer on the PR system –  all the way along Raj Path we got the details of who was where and who should be where and who needed to hurry up – was using my kind of Hindi :

“Sab teachers and in-charges ke liye ek meeting hai…

I ran up Raisina Hill, the incline leading up to Rashtrapati Bhavan, which has to double up as Mumbai’s Pedder Road in my training.  Been stressing myself by reading reports of the half marathon route, and everyone, without exception, makes mention of Pedder Road.  And how one has to factor in walking up it and thereby losing precious minutes.  So Raisina Hill it will have to be every day for the next 10 days.  Trying to replicate Mumbai agan.

After the pomp and circumstance, the Bollywood music and the icy wind, I made a detour via the little Masjid Zabta Ganj on Raj Path, an 18th century mosque that I have discovered through running, and have run past many times without ever stopping.

Today I did, and see what I found.  A fantabulous ceiling, for one :


India_New Delhi_1593

The usual clutch of little boys who could say “Hi” and “My name is” and that was that.  They were intrigued by the fact I could speak Hindi and traipsed around after me, instead of swabbing the floors of the mosque, which is what they all seemed to be doing when I arrived.

India_New Delhi_1552

Just think of all the years of driving past this little mosque, and only discovering it on foot…

Raj Path is being spruced up in preparation for 26 January (and, of course, President Obama, who will be the chief guest) and lots of access points are now blocked off.

As you can see.

India_New Delhi_1596

Love it.

I ran past a crowd of men listening to the sales patter of a man selling…well, you tell me what he was selling :

India_New Delhi_1578


The original fish oil salesman.

We encountered a bloke like this in Simla last year and since he told me that for Rs50 a slice of the backbone of a ??? (oh I forget what fish) would cure me of all my aches and pains, I duly stumped up the money and have left the talisman on my desk ever since.  I was supposed to tie it on a piece of string and wear it.  I think I now shall.

Here you go, I know you don’t believe me :


I am going to get a piece of thread and start 2015 fully protected.

Perhaps it will also protect me from the kind of asinine idiot like the bloke below who waved at me continuously, clearly thinking I was interested in him rather than the fish spines dangling in front of me.  Egotistical twerp.

India_New Delhi_1574


So there you go.  Delhi is not really like Mumbai at all, but one does one’s best.  And tomorrow I shall wear an extra layer of warmies.


Here’s the track log.  All 11.2km of it.

run 050115

Swachh Bharat 30.12.14 (Trying to find a lighter side)

There really isn’t actually a lighter side to rubbish at all, and I am in no way trivialising my own recent crusade to play whatever little part one can in the Swachh Bharat campaign…but this classic vignette caught my eye as I was out running this morning.

Rubbish skip that clearly hasn’t been emptied for a while = poor garbage collection is a big problem here.

Rubbish strewn on the floor = perennial problem.

Cow happily chomping on a plastic bag while his mate rootles inside the skip = seizing the moment.


Ah well, at least someone is enjoying the unsightly mess.

Swachh Bharat. 29.12.2014. Particularly depressing.

If there is a symbolic heart to Delhi, I would imagine it must be India Gate, the impressive war memorial and a centre piece of Raj Path.

So you would expect such a prime spot, which always has an impressive honour guard, to be spotless, right?

Especially since we are less than a month from Republic Day & the visit of President Obama…

Especially since the government is pushing its “Swachh Bharat” campaign & constantly regaling us with photos of ministers and VIPs wielding spotless new brooms, usually in front of a small heap of leaves…

Well, you would be wrong, wrong, wrong.

I went for a run at lunchtime today to India Gate & down Raj Path, which is all a-bustle with Republic Day preparations, and this is the reality on the ground :

India_New Delhi_1186

You can see India Gate just peeping out from behind the trees –  so this is not even 100 metres from our pride & joy, our national memorial to the country’s war dead.

More of the same.

India_New Delhi_1187

I ran past the 2 gawping men who asked me, bemused, why I was taking photos of rubbish, and just on the corner before India Gate –  so, let’s say, 50 metres from the monument, this is what greeted me :

India_New Delhi_1188

Don’t know what to say, really.

Well, he might never tell a woman to F*** off again

So there was I, this chilly December lunchtime, out for a run in Lutyens Delhi.  The pampered, protected heart of our nation.  Supposedly.

As I ran past the National Museum on Janpath –  totally in the pampered, protected heart of our nation etc etc –  I noticed 3 teenage boys ahead of me.  Thin.  Greasy hair.  School uniforms.  Backpacks half open.  They looked at me, whispered, then turned round and faced me, 3 abreast, blocking the pavement.

“Time,” they all said.

I ignored them, so they came a step closer.

“Time,” they repeated.

Another step closer, and they all said “Time” in unison.

I went to side-step them and one of them then made a fatal mistake.

“Fuck you” he said, and they all paused, waiting to see my reaction.

In Hindi I yelled, “WHAT did you just say?”

And then they started running.

Bad move boys.

I might be old enough to be your grandmother, but I can run.  I chased them down Janpath, much to their apparent horror, and as I ran  –  eventually –  past 2 cops I yelled, once again in Hindi, “Stop those boys”.

Now in this city, with its recent history of sexual attacks on women, you would hope that 2 cops seeing a woman chasing after 3 youths might be galvanised into action.

Not a bit of it.  And this is slap bang in the heart of tourist Delhi, remember.

One of them said “Purse” as I ran past, but didn’t move a muscle otherwise, and I made an on-the-spot decision to ignore these Keystone Cops and chase after the boys, who ran into one of the large colonial-era Lutyens bungalows.

I presume their parents work there, but they obviously realised that I meant business and would follow them into the quarters, so they ran back out, and we continued for a few more minutes till they slowed down, puffing and panting.




One of them started saying, in Hindi “We didn’t do anything” over and over again, to which I said “So why are you running away then?”

He instantly did a namaste and said “Maf karo auntie, maf karo” over and over again.

“It was just words,” he kept saying.

I slapped his greasy head at this, and yelled  –  oh how I yelled, hoping to attract a passer-by’s attention, but to no avail – “So would you use that word to your mother (twist of his ear) or to your sister (another twist of his ear)?”

“Auntie maaf karo. Maaf karo. Me sorry hu.”


And then I ran off (my split time for that km was excellent, I might add).

I wasn’t in any physical danger, despite the lack of police help and passer-by-indifference –  but it was the way the 3 creeps ganged up, that made me see red.  That could have been my beautiful daughter, or anyone else’s beautiful daughter.  If they were brazen about cheeking off an old age pensioner, in broad daylight, just think what they might have done to a young girl.

And I reckon that a slap to the head might knock some sense into his brain.  Perhaps prevent him growing up into a full blown creep.

No further moral to this story, other than the obvious –  running came to the rescue.

Swachh Bharat. Trying to be fair. 28.12.

Yesterday, I told you about the much-needed campaign that has been launched to clean up India.

Much of the blame, in my eyes, lies in people’s inability to think in a civic fashion, namely this is my street/neighbourhood/city/country and so I should do my bit to keep it clean.  The attitude seems, by and large, to be rather a case of it’s not my problem/someone else will pick it up/someone else should pick it up/it’s someone else’s job to pick it up/what are servants for if not to pick up.

Apologies if that sounds harsh, but I have heard this refrain from people I know and like and whom I would never expect to think like that – which all goes to show.  I remember being chided by a friend after a polo game, when i picked up my styrofoam tea cups to throw them away.

“What on earth are you doing, picking that up?  Leave it all, someone else will do it.”  Verbatim.

But, to be fair, there are times when one can also blame our poor infrastructure and civic amenities.

There is a waste bin on the street right outside my house.  I have blogged/tweeted about this useless bin over the course of the 9 years we have been back, all to no avail.




This time, the blame lies fairly and squarely in the court of the people who take my tax money and deliver precious little in return.  I promise you I won’t go off at a tangent, tempting though it is, to moan about street lighting and dug up roads and non-existent pavements…this section of my blog is about Swachh Bharat and Swachh Bharat only.

So you tell me, oh government-walas, how on earth can I keep my street swachh if this is the state of our bins?

Swachh Bharat 27.12.2014

As we inch our way towards 2015, I have decided to start one of my New Year resolutions early.  And this resolution is to do my own extra little bit for the seemingly impossible task of cleaning up India, my adoptive home.  As it is, I seem to spend my life (when I am out walking the dogs, for example) picking up discarded bottles and plastic bags and either throwing them in the next available rubbish bin or bringing them home to dispose of them properly.

The official government campaign, launched recently with much fanfare and many celebrity photo shoots, is called “SWACHH BHARAT” or Clean India.  And if ever a country needed cleaning up it is India.  It is often difficult as an outsider – which I will always be perceived as, no matter how long I live here – to criticise India.  This is one heck of a touchy country, and if criticism comes from “outsiders” it is seen as that much more offensive.

But it behoves me to say, as a lover of this country and as a committed resident, that India is one of the filthiest places I have ever visited.  And before anyone starts telling me (with, admittedly, a lot of justification) that there are no rubbish bins, or no-one collects the rubbish –  both of which are true – take a look at the photo below, which I took this morning.

This is the Lodhi Gardens, one of the sublimest places in Delhi –  a cluster of 15th century tombs, scattered over 90 or so acres of manicured, pampered, well-tended gardens.  This is one of the loveliest places in the city.  It also has, seriously, more functioning rubbish bins per square foot than anywhere else in Delhi.  You literally cannot move in the Lodhi Gardens without coming across a wastepaper bin, many of them painted in bright jolly street-art-like style.

And so what must one therefore conclude, on seeing a sorry sight like this one below?  2 rubbish bins clearly visible, and there was a 3rd one behind me…and yet whichever slob sat and ate and drank on this bench simply could not be bothered to walk  – what? –  50 metres to chuck his/her rubbish.  There was more garbage under the bench, and lots more behind me.  I thought of doing a panoramic shot, but you can get my drift from this much.

India_New Delhi_1007


This isn’t exactly a name and shame moment, since we do not know who walked off and left their litter behind.

But it indicates the enormity of the task this country faces.  If one of the country’s most prestigious monuments, and one well-supplied with rubbish bins is – even so – littered, what is to be done?

How do you start to instil a sense of civic pride?  How can you educate people?

I certainly don’t have all the answers –  though education & punishment do spring to mind. But watch this space, as I start chronicling as best I can, how to try and clean up Bharat.

Oh no. I could’ve outsourced Christmas to a Crib Designer & a Wrap Artist

I mentioned to you the other day that Delhi is adopting Christmas as though to the manner born, with pop-up stores selling headless reindeer.  Go on, check the photo, and you’ll see what I mean.

Every year we get out the increasingly battered old tree ornaments (there will be 2 less next year, thank you, Yoko), with their faded glitter and shine, but loads of memories that have travelled the globe with us.

Every year we set up at least 3 cribs –  the Italian crib, the Madagascan crib and the South African crib, which date respectively from when Hari was 3 months old/Mauritius/Johannesburg.  My main crib is an eclectic mix of Italian figures + 2 statues from Réunion + South African wire cattle + a rather lovely yak statue I bought in Ladakh this summer + small baobab trees from Jozi + Vietnamese water buffalo & a fab buffalo from Varanasi.  I take the analogy of “the cattle are lowing” rather literally.

And all of this mishmash-ery is because I had no clue – as in no clue – that you can pay people to set up your crib for you.

Very odd, if you ask me, because there ain’t really anything to it.  Get out statues, dust them off, arrange, sigh over years worth of memories, wipe away tears. Finito.

But clearly not…

xmas2014I tell you there is no limit to the amazing things in this country.

There was even a crib in the mall yesterday – which I guess is rather like Selfridge’s having a display of Hindu gods…



Our un-outsourced crib is up, the trees are smothered in tinsel and old ornaments and distinctly dodgy Made in China fairy lights.  We have trees, by the way, as opposed to a tree because (a) you can’t get a pukka, real Xmas tree here which means the local equivalent is small, so we need several to house all the ornaments…and (b) I have never been able to throw Xmas trees away, so we pot them and they just keep on growing.  Spindly and rather gawky looking, but their place on our balcony assured from one year to the next.

But what you can’t outsource is these fabulously, completely vulgar, totally OTT fairy lights that “play” 12 Xmas carols & flash in tempo.  Made in China, bought in India.  Must be a metaphor for something or other in there somewhere.

They are so awful that they are almost loveable.

Friends, wishing you all the most wonderful Christmas.  A happy and a holy and a special time with family and friends.

And here’s a Xmas carol for you…

[jwplayer mediaid=”20290″]

Aren’t they fab?

Shiver me timbers, but Delhi is COLD

Colder than London!

Colder than Simla!

Seriously, it’s true.  ’twas the headline of the venerable Times of India, so it must be true.

It is seriously brass monkey weather, especially in our totally unheated homes.  Our house, heading toward it’s 40th birthday (I think) is full of doors and windows that have warped over 40 monsoons, no longer meet properly, and so there are draughts buffeting us from every direction.

I am in 3 fleece mode these days, and trying to type with gloves on.  That kind of cold.

It was when I found myself huddled up like a granny (no disrespect intended to all my granny/grand-mere/gogo friends out there) in 3 fleeces + dressing gown + hot water bottle that I realised that the situation is desperate…bring on the Delhi summer, say I.  And yes, feel free to remind me of this when we are wilting in 48C in 5 months.

And so it was with some trepidation that I headed out to meet up with my running group for a 7am run this morning.  Since I am “vela” (Hindi for jobless, basically) I have taken to running in the middle of the day, when the sun sometimes manages to pierce through the fog (oh, did I mention that it is foggy too?) but because I run with lots of non-vela folks, 7 am it was.  They all have day jobs, in other words.  Getting up in the freezing dark, driving through empty dark streets, shivering our way around the Lodhi Gardens –  arre, what a cold run it was.  Brought tears to my eyes.

We all wore Santa caps, but didn’t elicit many smiles from the decidedly grumpy crowd plodding round the gardens.  We proffered a few “Merry Christmas” greetings, but not much reaction.  I guess everyone was just way too cold.

The only amazingly happy and smiling face came from a super cheerful lady to whom Doc introduced us –  Sunita Godara – and what a brilliant encounter that was.  I didn’t know anything about Ms Godara, I must admit, but I do now.  I do so love such serendipitous encounters.   If we hadn’t hung around debating where to go for a post-run breakfast, we might never have met this delightful, enthusiastic lady.

Talk about a running legend.

I give you an extract from her Wikipedia entry :

“Sunita Godara holds the record of running the maximum marathons run by an Indian. She has runs in 71 full marathons, starting with the Rath Marathon in 1984. She finished first 25 times, second 12 times and third 14 times. In addition to that, she won 23 half marathons and has runs 200 international races in all continents.”


(And yes, silly Santa cap photo below)



“Be in a easy condition” – er, yes, sure, why ever not…

Bright and early this slightly-chilly December morning, I met up with Doc (our coach) and 2 of my running girls for a nice slow-ish run around Panscheel Park.

Since Sonam, Sameeksha and the group Auntie (c’est moi) are running the Mumbai Marathon in –  gulp – less than 40 days***, it is high time we got back into shape.  We have all relaxed a little after the Delhi HM, and so this morning was our first proper post-ADHM run.

Panscheel Park, a well-maintained DDA Park, was new to me, and for those of you who don’t know it either, it’s worth it.  For the nice looping around wooded running track.

And for the brilliant signs which accompany the exercise zones that are scattered around the park.

Sonam and Sameeksha gamely tried out all the equipment for us, and so as well as a good attempt at getting-back-into-half-marathon-running shape, we also had a hilarious work out.

Check the signs for yourself.  Gotta love the picturesque English :

India_New Delhi_9896

The girls decided this was what “jump hurdlers jump” meant, though it seemed insensitive to point out they were absolutely not jumping of (sic) with 2 feet :

India_New Delhi_9897

I love the sign below, and even though we had all forgotten to bring our logs with us (go on, read it again) the girls interpreted the instructions as best they could :

India_New Delhi_9910

India_New Delhi_9911

After all this exercise, and a good 7.4km run, we all deserved some rest :


The good folks doing yoga, below, were clearly in tune with nature and in a (sic) easy condition.

Early morning yoga in local park, New Delhi, India.


*** I lie.

The Mumbai Marathon is not in 40 days.  It’s in 39 days and counting.

I got so spooked by the second counter whizzing down while I watched, that I quickly left the website.


Oh no! Disaster! Apparently I didn’t run the whole half marathon…

Well, if the venerable “Times of India” is to be believed, that is.

And I quote :

“The half marathon, covering a distance of about 21km (fair enough, it’s actually 21.097. But it doesn’t take much to verify your facts these days.  Google it, mister…) started at 7.30 (no, it didn’t.  The last batch set off at 7.11) and ended by 9.30 (dunno, I had finished my race by then, but it certainly seemed to me that there were still a good many folk running at that stage, so I very much doubt it finished then…). It covered Lodhi Road, India Gate, Rajpath and CONNAUGHT PLACE, among other areas.”

Oh no!  Can you credit it? I missed Connaught Place, folks.  How on earth did that happen? How could I be so stupid?

Yes, yes, obviously I didn’t miss CP, because obviously CP wasn’t part of the route. But it all goes to show how sloppy, sloppy, and did I mention sloppy, the level of reporting can be here.

OK, we get it, a half marathon isn’t cricket, and so isn’t actually considered to be sport with a capital S.

And since it’s not cricket, I suppose the theory goes that it’s therefore not of that much interest to most people, but damn it, can’t you at least get your facts straight?  All they had to do was go onto the ADHM website and get all the info they needed.

And, of course, there remains the $64000 question…

If the press can’t even report a half marathon correctly, what else are they getting wrong?

How much of my morning news should I believe?

And, before I sign off for the evening, I have the following observation to make : as an elderly participant, I am distinctly miffed that I didn’t get the treatment reported in the same newspaper:

“Despite presence of celebrities like cricketer Gautam Gambhir and actors Bipasha Basu and Vinod Khanna, the elders were the star of the event.  They were greeted by bystanders and even by on-duty volunteers with cheering claps.”


You know what, I am beginning to wonder if perhaps I wasn’t at a different event altogether, and that there was something for the wrinklies happening at Connaught Place.

1 99 100 101 102 103 105