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...]

Rebellion of the Child Bride

She was married when she was one year old. She didn't get a say, she didn't even know how to speak. Her parents traded her like a piece of property, her life theirs to do with as they pleased. But Laxmi Sargara refused to go along with it. When, years later, her "husband" came to collect her, she told her parents she wasn't going. This week, aged 18, she became the first Indian woman to refuse the marriage she was entered into as a child and demand that it be annulled. She should be … [Read more...]

Distracted by its own din, Europe cannot hear the gathering storm

The wolves are circling Europe. The emerging economies of Asia and South America sense weakness. Day by day, they are pushing the boundaries, seeing how far they can go, testing a new world order. But inside the camp, the old European economies are too deafened by the din of their own internal squabbles to hear the approaching danger. This week it was Spain's turn, as Argentina nationalised the Spanish-owned majority stake in its largest oil company. The Spanish government warned of … [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...]

View from a Terrace

Where do I begin? I'm sitting on the terrace of my apartment in Delhi. It's early evening and the light is already fading, but it's still warm, and the leaves are falling all around me. The leaves fall in spring in Delhi, which seems strange to some one like me who grew up in Europe, and associates the fall with the nights drawing in, huddling around the bonfire for warmth, and the death of the year. But here it is the summer everyone fears, summer is the season of death, and even the trees are … [Read more...]