I was in New Delhi at the beginning of this week to appear for an interview at the US embassy for a visa application for a business trip to the US in the near future.
This was my very first visit to New Delhi. I have finally fulfilled a long-held desire to see all the four metropolitan cities of India, viz. Delhi, Bombay (Mumbai), Madras (Chennai) and Calcutta (Kolkata). I was there for just a little over 24 hours, but I was still quite impressed with what I saw - wide, pothole-free roads with traffic zipping along at 50-60 kmph, lots of trees, everything spread out instead of congested together, etc. It did not feel like an Indian city at all. I am told that what I saw was just "New" Delhi and that Old Delhi is just like any other Indian city in terms of congestion and chaos. It's also rather myopic of me to judge a city by what I saw on my trips back and forth between my hotel in Connaught Place , the domestic and international airport terminals (a distance of about 20-25 kms) and the US Embassy.
However, others who have stayed in Delhi as well as Bangalore also insist that Delhi is a far cleaner city, has much less of traffic congestion and is a much larger city than Bangalore. I tend to agree based on what I have seen. I did not find Bombay, Madras and Calcutta much better than Bangalore - the awful amount of time you spend commuting in Bombay, the utter lifelessness of Madras for a youngster and the insanely congested traffic in Calcutta made me realise how much better off I was being in Bangalore than in any of these cities. With Delhi, I wasn't so sure.
While applying for a non-immigrant US visa, you have to fill out DS-156. One of the queries in this form that never fails to amuse me is:
Do you seek to enter the United States to engage in export control violations, subversive or terrorist activities, or any other unlawful purpose? Are you a member or representative of a terrorist organization as currently designated by the U.S. Secretary of State? Have you ever participated in persecutions directed by the Nazi government of Germany; or have you ever participated in genocide? [Yes/No]
Do they really expect anyone to answer "Yes" to that query?
My flights for this trip were with the new Kingfisher Airlines. I was quite impressed by them and would rank them higher than Jet Airways, the only other domestic airlines that I think has a reasonably good service. (My sister says that Paramount Airways is also quite good, but I am yet to travel with them.) Kingfisher has these little touches everywhere that score over Jet - the tickets are generally priced lower, you can select your seat over the Internet before checking in, when you arrive at the airport a valet takes your luggage, tags it, puts it through the security check and takes it to the check-in counter for you (no, I was not travelling Business Class but "Kingfisher Class", which is what they like to call Economy Class), there is an in-flight entertainment system to keep you occupied, the seats have slightly more leg room, etc. Oh yes, the air hostesses are really pretty too (with a bit too much of make-up I think, but quite pretty nonetheless). Wonderful.