On a frigid morning in Jackson, Tony dropped us at the airport. We were layered in the warmest clothes we had brought, which didn’t offer much in the 18F (-7C) mountain temperatures. Tony and Lis remarked on our small 35 and 46 liter backpacks containing all we would need in India for the next month. I replied that traveling light would make our frenetic pace around the country that much easier. I glanced at the fog-draped Tetons as we entered the world of airplanes and conditioned airports that would be our environment for the next day and a half.
Exiting the airport in New Delhi, I was surprised to see a thick layer of smoke surrounding the terminal. It smelled like the burning wood of cooking fires. I was reminded of Manila, where residents had constructed their huts between the airport terminals, selling home cooked food and drinks. The smoke in Delhi was a precursor to Indian air pollution that would cling to every part of our bodies throughout India although in Delhi, it was certainly the worst. In a cacophony of horn honks, we drove past brightly decorated trucks with feral dogs darting in between before hitting a major traffic snag. The traffic was due to a massive Indian wedding being held at our hotel.
A fourteen piece band, brightly colored and blasting out celebratory tunes welcomed wedding guests at the hotel gate. After a security check, we were greeted by a doorman in an ornate achkan and turban and shown to our room. We thought for a minute about trying to crash the Indian wedding, but decided to watch the fabulously-dressed women in their saris and men in shiny suits and achkans.
In the morning, we had a deep dive into Indian cuisine, trying not to pig out on the massive variety of regional offerings. We sweated out the plane juice in our gender-segregated saunas, the primary reason I had chosen the Jaypee Vasant Hotel. We had some time before our afternoon flight, so we made a trip to the massive DLF Emporio mall. I picked up a short men’s kurta shirt to replace the long sleeve I had forgotten at home and we had a delicious chicken lunch at Nandos.