24 Feb

“It’s the Delhi equivalent of Fulham” said my brother of his new neighbourhood.  To my knowledge, the solidly affluent middle class London suburb doesn’t often have cows napping in the middle of the road.  Everything about India is a surprise, a shock, an assault on the senses.  From the eye watering, throat constricting chili market, to the bum numbing journeys on rickety buses, the stench of open sewers, the unwelcome advances from seedy men with wandering hands and the regular plunging into inky darkness as the electricity supply fails again.  India is frustrating, magical, filthy, baffling.  And hot, so hot that the air burns your lungs, walking down the street induces nausea, and emergency blackout candles melt in rucksacks.

Days before the much anticipated rainy season, the air in Old Delhi is thick with dust and pollution and shimmering hot.  An afternoon of exploring has left us exhausted, sweaty, overwhelmed.  Our last stop of the day is reputedly the oldest mosque in the city, a modest, single story building.  I’m underwhelmed, there is little decoration, just a tatty carpet and grubby plastered walls.  It may be the oldest mosque in this ancient city, but it certainly isn’t as grand as others we’ve seen, no sufis, no ornate jewelled walls.  All I want is to retire to a fan cooled cafe for an iced lemon soda, I can almost feel the condensation on the cold glass, taste the sour fizz.  But we are here, and my brother has promised me a good view.

The caretaker rouses himself from his afternoon nap on the floor, head pillowed on a turban, and after a few words with my brother, produces a key and unlocks a small door in the wall.  We follow him up a steep, narrow staircase and out on to the roof.  The air is cool and fresh away from the close, maze-like streets, the city spread out in front of us, a carpet of low level dwellings, mosques, shops.  And in the sky, pigeons, thousands of pigeons flying in numerous small flocks, soaring and diving, as choreographed as a ballet, their stage stretching as far the eye can see.

We watch, mesmerised by their synchroncity and grace.  “They are pets you know” the caretaker says, “look around you, their owners are on the roofs of the buildings, they fly them like kites, have done ever since the city came into being.”  As we listen to the men calling the pigeons, and watch their extraordinary swooping flight in the falling dusk, the dirty, smelly, frustrating city recedes.  I am a still, silent point in the swirling vortex of history as the birds keep tracing their ancient map in the sky.

This post was written for the writing workshop at Sleep is for the Weak.  This week, Josie asked us to ‘Talk about a time where you found something magical in the mundane.’


19 Responses to “Flight”

  1. MTJAM 24/02/2010 at 11:04 pm #

    Your writing is beautiful. I can almost smell and feel what you’re describing.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 25/02/2010 at 2:44 pm #

      Thank you. I love your writing too, so I’m very pleased you enjoyed it.

  2. Heather 25/02/2010 at 9:58 am #

    Delhi is something I really want to experience. i loved this, you really brought it to life!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 25/02/2010 at 2:39 pm #

      Thank you x

  3. Josie @Sleep is for the Weak 25/02/2010 at 12:02 pm #

    Absolutely beautiful as always. I visibly exhale when I read your posts – they always transport me somewhere new and magical.

    Do you know what struck me reading this? One day, I bet, your children will be filling blogs and diaries with memories like this. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – you are giving them such a gift x

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 25/02/2010 at 2:41 pm #

      Thank you. As you know, I love your writing, so I’m very happy that you like mine, it means a lot.

  4. marisworld 25/02/2010 at 3:10 pm #

    I was there! Well in my mind that is. You made it come alive and I really enjoyed it. Thank you

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 26/02/2010 at 11:54 am #

      no, thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  5. Crystal Jigsaw 25/02/2010 at 3:17 pm #

    A fascinating place; lovely post.

    CJ xx

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 26/02/2010 at 11:54 am #


  6. Deer baby 25/02/2010 at 5:41 pm #

    What exquisite writing. You have a real gift. I’m deeply envious of your trip but I don’t know how you do it. Your children will have such magical memories. Plus I love the name Dickon – ever since I read The Secret Garden as a child!

  7. Tanya 26/02/2010 at 2:07 am #

    Oh my goodness so so so so true!!

  8. Dee Andrews 10/03/2010 at 6:21 pm #

    Beautiful, evocative writing.

    Wanted to let you know this post is included in my edition of Carnival of Cities at http://travelandtravails.com/opinions/carnival-of-cities/

    My family is eight months back home after living in Spain for a year, traveling and experiencing other cultures. Best of luck on your adventures!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 11/03/2010 at 2:27 pm #

      Thank you, I shall be over to have a read of your blog and find out about your adventures in Spain.

  9. Suzy 07/04/2010 at 3:36 am #

    Wonderful narrative. I am right there with you sweating and smelling the unpleasant. I do love those moments in travel where our dissatisfaction or complaints with a places suddenly cease, even if it just for a second. Great post!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 07/04/2010 at 9:04 am #

      Sometimes we wonder why we do it, the beds are uncomfortable, you can’t get a decent bath. But occassionally, there are these moments that make you realise you wouldn’t have it any other way.

  10. TheNDM 07/04/2010 at 8:57 am #

    This is amazing writing. Beautiful. Evocative. All the things the other commenters have said… and then some.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 07/04/2010 at 9:03 am #

      Thank you 🙂


  1. uberVU - social comments - 25/02/2010

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by Wandering_Off: RT @vwallop: New blog post. Flight: http://wp.me/psaAB-s7

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