Had a rather bizarre experience this morning – a brief and accidental journey to the inner sanctum of the Indian upper class.
Having visited both the Nepalese and British embassies in search of visas – the Nepalese very pleasant and helpful, the Brits predictably quite the opposite – we wandered off down the wide boulevards of the Diplomatic Enclave in search of an autorickshaw. After brief encounters with Nehru Park – a startling little Fitzroy Gardens-esque oasis of serenity – and a man with a monkey on the back of his bicycle, we found ourselves outside some sort of airforce base.
We were about to resign ourselves to turning back and trying somewhere else when we saw a semi-obscured sign proclaiming the base to be the home of some sort of shopping centre. This seemed so improbable that we decided to have a look. It turns out that the shopping centre was Delhi’s equivalent of Toorak village – a wonderfully snobby enclave full of rich women who are so incredibly important that they simply couldn’t possibly shop in the city with everyone else. Why this was stationed on the grounds of an airforce base is one of the many imponderables of India, but it was an interesting insight into the lives of women who are so rich and civilised that they can’t quite bring themselves to admit that they’re Indian, the sort of people who (to paraphrase Spike Milligan) speak six languages and have nothing of interest to say in any of them.
We sat and had vastly overpriced cups of tea, enduring the glares of waiters who clearly weren’t happy that the accident of an inflated exchange rate enabled two shawl-clad Lonely Planet-clutching itinerates to step into their world, and watched the chattering classes clucking over exclusive beauty products and clothes that’d cost yer average Indian’s yearly wage. The novelty lasted about half an hour, and then the snotty waiters and Christmas muzak became too much to endure, but still, it was an interesting reminder that even in a country containing 35% of the world’s poor, society wimmin remain as self-obsessed and tedious as ever.