A Night in Delhi

  It's late in Delhi and the night is warm. The cool evenings of spring are behind us and soon the burning nights of summer will be upon the city, when the wind blows hot and bone dry. I'm thirsty, but the fridge is empty so I decide to walk over to the shops for some cold beers. Outside, I can feel the heat standing up off the road surface like a wall. There's a power cut in the next block and I find myself stumbling through the darkness. There are big potholes in the road … [Read more...]

The World’s Most Overpriced Airport

  So, Delhi airport is to become the world's most expensive for airlines. It's one of those stories you barely notice, just another sign of India's booming economy -- until you stop to think: it doesn't make any sense at all. India's aviation sector is in crisis. Kingfisher Airlines, the toast of the industry a few years ago, is on the verge of collapse, unable to pay its pilots' salaries or its fuel bills, its international flights cancelled, its domestic operations pared back to … [Read more...]

The Bus Lane from Hell

Bus lanes are the great levellers of our times. The rich man sits in traffic in his Mercedes, watching as the poor man sweeps past in the bus. But here in Delhi, they have come up with an even more egalitarian version. On the Delhi Bus Rapid Transit Corridor, nobody is getting anywhere. It used to be the quickest north-south route through the city, then the goverment decided it needed modernising. Now, the traffic is so bad it takes 20 minutes' wait just to get onto the road, because there's … [Read more...]

Blood on the streets

I was a few streets from home when it came at me. An SUV on the wrong side of the road, travelling in the wrong direction, rushing out of the night straight at my car, lights flashing and horn blaring for me to get out of the way. It was no time to argue. I slammed the brakes on and swerved. I managed to avoid a head-on collision but the two cars scraped along the side of each other before slewing to a halt in the middle of the deserted road. The other driver was getting out of his car. He … [Read more...]

The Mad Axemen of Delhi

"What the hell was that?" I said. It sounded like something big had just crashed to earth right outside my window. "I think they're trimming the trees," my housekeeper said, peering out. Trimming? Huge branches were coming down in all directions, hitting the ground so hard they were breaking apart.There were several men sitting high up in the trees, hacking at them with axes, while others shouted up orders from below. This was trimming the trees, Delhi style. I saw a particularly large bough … [Read more...]

Sleepless nights in Delhi

I don't sleep well. Perhaps I have unquiet dreams. But I think it has something to do with the man who blows a whistle outside my window all night. When I first moved to Delhi, I thought it was a drunk blowing a whistle at three in the morning. Or a madman. It was a football referee's whistle, and he was blowing it hard, really going for it, and I thought he was going to wake the whole neighbourhood up, and that in a few moments I would hear angry voices. But there was nothing, just that … [Read more...]