It began almost immediately; whilst Peter sat double-showered, preened and manicured in the Golden Dragonfly Lounge, sipping G&T, I was detained and lectured at by our over zealous border patrol storm troopers about my tatty passport and the risk that it (& I) posed to national security. Suitably chastened I hurdled thru the enormous obstacle course of duty free impediments to reach the Lounge ... just as our flight was called.
Then onboard, in Goldilocks fashion, finding his chair "too hard", Peter immediately called for the aircraft maintenance team before vacating his seat adjacent to me, in disgust, in search of one that was "just right" - muttering something about his bad back and other ailments as he stormed away.
Secretly I was glad, but I did feel a tinge of empathy as both me and my seat, once extended, assumed both the logistics and comfort of a dentist's chair with oversize patient.
Arriving, we had the strange sensation of being on a movie set or in a half finished theme park, as we negotiated our way onto the new Airport Express metro train service; whisked thru the outer suburbs in a high-tech tinted window and sound-proofed capsule we were deposited at the far end into a cavernous air conditioned mable-floored metal hangar with a lonely cafe bar and WH Smith, direct from central casting - it was as if we had not yet entered India. And at the top of the escalators the effect was even more stark as we found an open door leading off-set which we were shooed away from by a sleepy sentry.
Seeing so much new construction seemed to pique Peter's interest and he ruthlessly examined the finishing like a manic home renovator. "If it was me I would tell them to rip it all down and start over again!" he bellowed at me as he pointed out the not-quite-perfect lines and surfacing along the enormous ceiling.
Outside was a real assault on the senses as we jostled our way into the real metro system, past "the deluxe toilets" and then those who relieved themselves alfresco.
Old Delhi was as I had remembered: a crowded swirling mix of street vendors, dark shops, and a river of humanity surging along the alleyways and thoroughfares, dissected with unknown precision by the overloaded mopeds, auto rickshaws, trucks and buses all belching fumes into our faces as we trudged under a noon-day sun towards the Red Fort (Mughal Fortress).
Anxious to be learned and respectful tourists we took the self-guided audio tour and listened to the rich Oxbridge timbre of our Indian host as he regaled us with facts, figures and anecdotes from life in the Mughal Court. Personal favourites were the Elephant parking lot, the Marble Throne - complete with exquisite Florentine inlays - and the Royal Baths. Peter however was far more interested in the overall symmetry, lines and architectural integrity of the place: "I would never have laid those tiles like that!"
Overcome by the heat and soporific tones of our guide as he recited 17th century court poetry, we napped on the lawns under the old shade trees until late in the afternoon, after which we dodged traffic (and all other manner of roadside users: dentists, mechanics etc) to visit the Forest of Peace where we were enchanted by the tranquility of the parklands. Devoted to Jawaharlal Nehru - India's first Prime Minister, there was a simple yet moving memorial where in an open letter to the nation he described his irreligious pragmatism, his indebtedness to all those who supported him and his wish that his ashes be released from an airplane high over the fields of India so that he may return into the earth as soil is tilled and crops grown.
An hour of smoky turbid grid lock followed as we battled through the streets of Old Delhi in the back of an auto rickshaw, inching our way towards the Long Distance Railway terminal. Pillion passengers swayed dangerously into our laps and we were lucky to avoid getting a spray as an unfortunate mini-bus passenger suffered a severe case of motion sickness just off our starboard side.
Ensconced in the relative comfort of our first class compartment we ate two bananas and some mandarins we had sourced from a platform hawker and drifted off to sleep, faster than Peter could say "and this one is too hard"...