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A Message from India

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Once upon a time, our passports were stamped with regularity. Henry and I wandered the street markets of Camden Town, soaked in hot springs in a ryokan in Hakone, drove across Tuscany along fields of sunflowers, bought pirated DVDs in Shanghai. But since becoming parents, we’ve only left the country twice — for visits to Canada and Mexico. The travel bug hasn’t left us, as evidenced by our (increasingly) frequent trips around the U.S., but since the birth of our kids, we haven’t done much trekking overseas. (Hawaii doesn’t count.)

But recently, Henry took on global responsibilities at work. To kick off his new role, he dusted off his passport, packed his bags, and jetted off for a few weeks to visit a couple of his company’s offices. Here – in his words – is what he’s been doing when he’s not in conference rooms.  And, yes, I’d much rather be exploring Delhi with my soulmate and kiddos than editing this post at home in my dorky amber googles.


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My best friend from high school shot me an email last night: “I flew into Tokyo for a meeting – any chance you’re here?”

“No – I’m in New Delhi this week,” I responded. “Then I’m off to Hong Kong.” I thought for a moment, and added: “It’s kind of ridiculous that we’re having this conversation.”

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It’s been years since my last visit to Asia, and I’d never spent time in India before. So as much as I knew I’d miss Michelle and the boys, I was eager to get on the ground and explore Delhi – a vibrant city teeming with over 20 million people, where thousand-year-old cultural landmarks and sleek, modern mega-malls coexist.

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On my first day in Delhi, my driver, Mr. Mohan, took me on a whirlwind tour of the city.

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Happily playing tourist, I visited the India Gate and President’s Estate. I saw Connaught Place and walked the Rajpath.

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I admired statues…

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…and ancient gates…

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…and three-wheeled motorized rickshaws (tuk-tuks)…

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…some so crammed with passengers that people end up sitting half-outside the vehicles.

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I gawked at the spectacular Qutub Minar

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…and marveled at the Tomb of Humayun.

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But no matter how grand the sights, I was struck most by smaller-scale scenes, like food vendors hawking their wares…

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…beautiful, dusty archways…

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…the mix of ancient cultures and new technologies… 

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…and the stray animals that roam the streets…

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…including roving packs of monkeys.

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Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I enjoyed working out at CrossFit Himalaya.

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In my spare time, I’ve been soaking in as much of Delhi as I can.

Here, you can find over-the-top opulence and luxury, but more often than not, you see crushing poverty: People in sandals doing road construction with hand tools, families crammed into crumbling brick shacks without electricity or plumbing, loose garbage and piles of rubble everywhere…

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…and young kids working late into the night.

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This is an eleven-year-old boy who runs a flatbread stand in a narrow alley near my hotel. I see him there every night.

Particularly heartbreaking are the dirt-smeared beggar children – many not more than five years old, some carrying their infant siblings – tottering into the chaotic jumble of cars, buses, bicycles, and tuk-tuks. Peering into car windows with hungry eyes and rapping on the glass lightly with their fingers, they plead for change. It takes a hard heart to turn away. The numbers are staggering: There are over 60,000 child beggars in New Delhi alone.

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The heightened state of security here is a bit jarring, too. Clearly, the Taj Hotel terror attacks in Mumbai a few years back are still at the forefront of public consciousness. There are armed guards around the perimeter of my hotel, and whenever we pull into the parking lot, a guy peers underneath the car with a mirror and the trunk is searched.

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I go through a metal detector every time I enter our office building, my hotel, or even a shopping mall (where it seems like the front of every store is guarded by a security officer). I am frisked several times a day.

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I’ve been walking to and from work, and I’ve had plenty of chances to peruse sidewalk markets and take in the aromas of nighttime food stands. The food here has been fantastic. I love North Indian cuisine – in particular, Awadhi and Muglai food – so I’ve been tucking into meal after meal of mutton, kababs, and rich, spicy curries.

A typical lunch: Murg seekh (minced chicken) kababs…

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…and a bowl of spicy rogan josh (mutton curry stew)…

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…with fragrant white rice.

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I can’t get enough of the stuff.

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My Indian colleagues keep asking me if I want to order pizza or sandwiches for lunch, and I look at them like they’re crazy. “We thought you might miss the foods from home,” they politely explain.

I don’t miss sandwiches, but I do miss my family. I wish they were here to experience this with me.

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