The idea was to stay in Delhi for four nights, a kind of extended pit stop on our way to Nepal where we’re planning to trek the Annapurna Circuit over Christmas and New Year. We thought this was a good amount of time to get over our jet lag, acclimatise a little and spend time with the family friend hosting us.
As it turned out, both Kim and I became ill, one after the other, and so the pit stop turned in to more of a convalescence period. We suspected that our respective bouts of illness were related to the poor air quality here and so for a few days we both ended up taking refuge in the flat, without so much as a breather outside. When the Air Quality Index is as high as it usually is in Delhi during the winter months, the advice is to stay inside with the windows and doors shut.
We have been lucky enough to be staying in a lovely, spacious 1950s-built apartment, so being unwell here has been a lot more comfortable than it could have been. And we’ve found that, while India has been carrying on with its colourful bustle outside, we’ve been able to continue enjoying much of it from behind closed doors.
On our last full day, I ventured back out to the porch, and wrote the following about our time here:
DELHI HOMESTAY High, high ceilings, dark polished wood, windows patterned with lead. Outside, a small lawn and large lush plants, tall trees. Beyond, a rectangular, neighbourhood park where men read and doze and play some cricket. A short walk away, a few cafes selling sweet and salty lassi, masala dosas and paneer. The other direction, a shanty town lines a busy road. Rickshaws, taxis, bicycles and motorbikes ply the route to Huyaman’s Tomb, the second Mughal Emperor, lying in splendid rest for over five hundred years. Back at the homestay, birdsong, barking dogs, hawkers’ calls and the sound of a hammer infiltrate the house. A tiny, striped squirrel runs down the tree outside the window. The front door is closed against the winter Delhi air, but India is everywhere.