A Frantic Christmas in New Delhi

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE! Here’s hoping you had a wonderful day and have a very happy New Year. I know Simon and I have missed our friends and family very much over the festive period, so I’d like to send you all our love. Thanks to those who’ve been reading and I hope to celebrate with you all in the near future, Liv x

After deciding that the Ashram wasn’t really our scene over the festive period, we arrived in New Delhi after an epic ten-hour car journey. Usually the trip from Rishikesh would never take this amount of time, yet the recent – and completely justifiable – protests in Delhi against sex crimes and corruption meant that Central Delhi (right where we are located) was in lockdown, hence the slow crawl toward Karol Bagh and our hotel for the next few days. Luckily we had an awesome driver who was lots of fun and great company, but it meant that by the time we arrived at around 7pm on Christmas Eve, both Simon and I were absolutely knackered (that weird travelling kind of tiredness – sat down all day but shattered all the same). Seeing a nice hotel room therefore was a great relief and feeling distinctly un-Christmassy, we grabbed a quick nap!

A good friend in Delhi of mine mentioned a Midnight mass at the Sacred Heart Cathedral along with Carol singing, which seemed just the ticket to put us in a festive mood! After getting up and grabbing some food at the restaurant next door however, my stomach decided to go on protest too and so we had to bail on our plans, which was very upsetting. Not how I envisaged spending my Christmas eve! However, making the best of a bad situation, Si and I put on the movie channel and Simon ate chocolate to his heart’s delight. Not the most adventurous of evenings –  but one which was homely enough for me.

Disappointed by my body’s complete lack of co-operation the night before, on the 25th I woke up feeling much more festivity focused! 🙂 An early breakfast at the hotel meant lots of pancakes and syrup for Simon, a truly sugary and Christmassy start to the day and eggs for me. I love travelling in India but we all definitely do have our moments, Christmas’ special family significance making it difficult not to make any comparisons, so the lack of any stocking was noted (I’m 21 but a big kid at heart guys!). Simon had already given me an amazing gift in the form of an SLR camera we’re sharing and I took him to Elefantastic, so we didn’t have any gifts but Simon had lots of lovely Christmas cards from his family, which I know made a big difference to his day! I was lucky enough to catch my little brother on Skype in America too along with the ma and pa, which was really good fun. He’d been to NASA that day and filled me in on what he’d been up to, whilst I revealed that we were in Delhi now and heading to Goa soon. It was odd to think that although it was 10am here on Christmas Day, he was still celebrating the end of Christmas eve! Time travel is not that impossible after all 😉

Sacred Heart Cathedral in Delhi

After missing Midnight Mass the night before due to sickness, next thing on my list was to make sure I made it to Mass for the day. The Sacred Heart Cathedral in Delhi is really beautiful and hundreds of people had congregated, whether Catholic or not, to share in the festivities of Christmas day. There was a heavy police presence at both the entrance and exits, but the Parish had erected a huge marquee outdoors and was holding masses all day. It was so nice to see a big Christmas tree along with a nativity scene! Huge stars adorned banner style the sides of the Cathedral whilst they played music through loud speakers. People queued to go and see the inside of the Cathedral (whether out of religious duty or sheer curiosity), with a large painted mural behind the altar. Simon is not catholic but he agreed to come to the Mass with me, which was really good of him. It created quite the amusing situation however as we approached for communion and Si simply stuck his tongue out to receive the host, to which the priest responded: ‘You’re not Catholic are you?’ and Si had to profess he was. The priest had already announced that all faiths were welcome, but he could only give communion to Catholics. To be fair, plenty of people we’re approaching for communion who clearly weren’t Catholics at all, with varying comedic results. One priest gave up hope and just started blessing everyone unless they asked specifically for communion, but it felt like a real slice of Christmas miles away from home, so why shouldn’t everyone join in?! After communion we went and lit candles at the Nativity grotto and soaked in the atmosphere for a while before deciding to go and grab some food.

This is where Delhi becomes a bit frantic. Lots of my friends live in South Delhi and love the place, but most will openly admit that Central Delhi can be a bit of a nightmare at times, with one friend going so far as to call it ‘gross’. Although I wouldn’t say that, Connaught Place did become a bit of a nightmare to navigate through. Although quieter than I thought it would be (the police presence with riot vans positioned around with tear gas cannons at the ready probably didn’t help – a policeman died that morning and so a backlash was anticipated), we didn’t exactly know where we were going either and all the local metro stations were closed due to protests. After walking around for a few hours, Simon getting increasingly annoyed with persistent tuk tuk drivers / beggars / general nuisances we therefore decided to call it a day, popping into the nearest deli for our grub before getting a tuktuk back again. It didn’t help that a tuk tuk driver had already got our backs up by trying to claim Connaught Place was closed because of the riots and tried to take us to various different handicraft places for commission (he got a bit of a shouting at).

DLF Mall, South Delhi.

Our solution? Head back to the hotel to watch Christmas films and eat lots of orange flavoured dairy milk (the closest thing we could find to a Terry’s chocolate orange and lots of it). This made us feel much better, at least temporarily. But…my good friends solution? A bit of retail therapy at the DLF mall in South Delhi. Such – a – good – solution!! As a result, we ended up having Nandos feast for Christmas dinner – who needs turkey when you’ve got periperi right?! – which when combined with good company is a recipe for success. Simon managed to eat a platter intended for 3 to 4 people singlehandedly too (also very Christmas like).The mall was decorated perfectly, lots of lights and Christmas decorations which went down a treat. Maybe its a sad reflection of society that Christmas festivities are so intertwined with consumerism now, but I certainly wasn’t complaining. I found my little Christmas haven in Delhi and it made a big difference to my day! 🙂 Oh and a corrupt police officer even let us off with one of the many made up fines that he tried to impose on us just because it was Christmas day. No bribes or nothing! Happy Christmas indeed. 🙂

Lots of Festive love,

Liv x

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