And then night in Delhi

If days in Delhi are about long hot cab rides with drivers insisting on playing CDs of Kumar Sanu hits, or have the FM stations belting out the latest Hindi filmi hits, the nights are almost magical. The heat of the day is gone, there are early signs of winter in the air. As most of New Delhi is slowly drifting to sleep, Old Delhi continues to bustle with chaos. Traffic piles up at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night at the intersection outside the Red Fort, horns blare with abandon and fist fights threaten to break out any moment.

The fort meanwhile has shut for the day for visitors, but is illuminated, coyly waiting for the sound and light show to commence. We walk through group after group of policemen, and barricade after yellow barricade (which incidentally, I do not grudge since they serve me very well in the absence of a tripod).

Sandstone at night...

I stop in front of Lahore Gate for this crooked view at the majestic fort, making a mental note to return sometime during the day. More metal detectors and frisks later, we are suddenly walking through the covered bazaar which now boasts of some of the ugliest touristy trash that can be found in Delhi…

fort on fire...?

And well inside the fort, we sit in the open, facing the diwan-e-khas, watching the lights dance and the sounds roll through the open spaces; the laughter of women at the all-women Thursday bazaar, Shah Jahan’s vision for the Taj, Aurangazeb’s bigoted pronouncements all the way to the call for independence early last century. We shiver slightly in the nippy air, as the son-et-lumiere brings alive centuries of Mughal Delhi.

the hall of special audience...

We walk out after the show, hurried along by the slightly impatient securitymen who are waiting to lock up behind us and leave for the day. A quick dinner and a strange desire for late night ice-cream at India Gate expressed by the husband later, we find ourselves at the said gate.

India Gate is strangely dark and inaccessible; more policemen, more yellow barricades. However, all around is activity – balloon sellers and buyers, icecream vendors on their cycles and icecream eaters, photographers and the photographed, cops going round and round in their vans, children at their loudest best and couples very quiet on the lawns…

the world in my hands...

Bahut sari tasveeren khichvayi hai humne… I have had lots of pictures taken, said the balloon man, feigning great reluctance, and promptly putting his hands out and his smile on for this perfect pose. All is almost well with the world, if I can bring myself to ignore the number of security checks and police vans I encountered in a single evening…

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