That’ll be half then …
Day two in India started well. We had awoke at our leisure – slightly more than we had anticipated because Captain Clarke’s brilliant Clock App that displays a huge digital clock was 2½ hours slow! It was only when I awoke, looked at the clock which reported 5.14 in the morning, saw that it was already light outside and realised that it isn’t light at 5.14 in the morning that I realised we had a problem! Fortunately, we hadn’t quite missed breakfast which we took in the Executive Lounge. Immediately upon arrival we were offered an omelette (I think they wanted to get it cooked quickly as we were close to the finishing time!) Captain Clarke went for a ham and cheese omelette, I decided to go for the Indian ‘Bread Omelette’. A good measure of any dish is … would you have it again – on this, I would! Breakfast also included an excellent range of cold meats, cheese and Indian dishes along with juices and, of course, tea and coffee. All very acceptable!
After breakfast we decided we would begin our research on whether we could get new lenses in our glasses as we had both had eye tests in the last week and had both been told our prescriptions had changed. We went downstairs to ask the concierge if they could help. Normally this would not warrant comment, however, on this occasion there was an added challenge. Whilst we are in India for me to speak at a conference about data centres, there was another conference happening on Tuesday. I had been asked to take part in that conference but had no real desire to do so and, as a result, when we went to speak to the concierge, we had to dodge people and ensure that I wasn’t seen! If one has ever seen an Inspector Clouseau film where he is dodging behind pillars trying not to be seen, you will have a good idea of what this was like!
Having reached the concierge, we asked whether we might find an opticians that would do replacement lenses and, after some discussion amongst the staff on the desk, we were recommended to visit an option called ‘Lensmart’. They would get the complimentary hotel tuk tuk to take us there. This seemed like an excellent idea and the name suggested it was exactly what we wanted. Having dodged and bounced our way through the streets of Gurgaon, the hotel tuk tuk delivered us to the shop which turned out to be in the mall that we had tried to visit the day before. It transpires that the one we were looking for is on the opposite side of the MG Road station to that we had been. We found Lensmart with no problem and duly went inside. Having looked around for a few minutes, a member of staff came and asked if he could help. We explained that we were looking to get replacement lenses in existing frames and he immediately informed us that this was not possible. He said you had to buy frames with lenses and led us over to a display stand. He passed me a frame and suggested I might like to procure these with some lenses. I looked at the price of the frames and decided that, if the frame alone was going to cost £1,000, this was not the shop for us!
We made a discrete exit and decided that, since we were here anyway, we may as well have a look around the mall. As we did so, we found that there were a number of other opticians in the mall. Out of interest we popped into Dayal Opticals and asked the question. “Certainly!”, came the response, “Of course. Come on in”. So we did. Our new best friend Abdul welcomed us and explained that yes, of course, they could do replacement lenses. We handed over the glasses prescription and he said he would just like the resident optician to check it – at no charge – to make sure they would agree. After the second eye test in less than a week it was confirmed that, yes, our prescriptions were correct! Abdul then took us through the various options for lenses which were, indeed, considerably cheaper than in the UK. After some deliberation on the quality of lens and various other factors (like price!) we came to a conclusion that I would procure a new set of lenses for my ‘occupational’ glasses and a complete new frame and lenses for my day to day varifocals. Negotiations complete, an order was placed and collection arranged for Saturday.
Since I need varifocal lenses, they are necessarily more expensive than single focus lenses because they effectively three lenses in one. The price negotiated for a set of replacement lenses plus a complete set of frame and lenses was still considerably less than one pair of glasses in the UK. We then decided that Captain Clarke should also procure new lenses. Our new best friend Abdul very discretely suggested that Captain Clarke’s existing frames were somewhat ‘dated’ and that he might like to try some new frames too. Having tried a number of frames, the decision came down to just two. Being completely undecided I encouraged Captain Clarke to buy both. Decision made, two new sets of glasses (single vision) along with some very much more modern frames (Bulgari and Dolce & Gabanna!) were procured, along with a pair of occupational lenses fitted to an existing frame, for less than the price of my one pair! Sometimes life just isn’t fair!!
Deal done, our friend Abdul asked us what else we were going to do in India. We explained that we wanted to visit some markets, find good food and get to understand Delhi a bit more. He recommended that we visit the INA market where you can buy anything from spices to fresh vegetables to meat, clothes, carpets, cookware and everything else that you can think of. He also recommended Dilli Haat for some culture, crafts and food from a variety of regions in India. This seemed like a plan so we went back to the hotel, picked up our smart cards for the metro and made our way to IFFCO Chowk. We queued up to top up the cards with another day’s travel but, incredibly, we were in the wrong queue! It seems that this is a feature of using the metro – the ticket queue is often not where you need to go! Fortunately, we already knew where Customer Care was at IFFCO Chowk, so we made our way there. When we arrived we were told that they were in the middle of a shift change so we had to wait whilst they cashed up and did their shift change. They were definitely on Indian Standard Time and we waited about 20 minutes!
Tickets eventually purchased – it transpires that the deposit on the smart card is non returnable! We got a metro to INA. We spent a wonderful hour walking around the market looking at all the goods on offer, taking in the sights and the smells of the market. You can’t visit a market without a purchase in India, so we didn’t disappoint. Having looked at several stalls selling kitchen equipment, we eventually started negotiation on the procurement of a ‘chapati pan’ – every home in the UK should have one!! I took control of negotiation and mastered the art of shrugging my shoulders and saying “too much” very quickly. Eventually, my incredible negotiation skills resulted in the purchase of said chapati pan – the asking price had been 700 rupees and my sharp skills had reduced this to 600 rupees! I’m not sure I should give up my day job to become a negotiator quite yet!
Chapati pan procured, we decided on a visit to Dilli Haat. Dilli Haat is basically a government supported outdoor market with several hundred stalls selling regional crafts and with a large food court also selling regional foods. Whilst it was interesting to see, the vast majority of stalls were selling pashminas or other scarfs which, whilst that might be good for some, we were really not interested in. Other crafts included leather goods, mother or pearl products and jewellery. Not really our thing to be honest! We did, however, decide to stop for a quick snack. We entered one of the many restaurants and, although we couldn’t quite work out what the ‘region’ was, we decided that the menu offered something for both of us. Captain Clarke ordered the ‘Butter Chicken’ with two Rotis and I ordered the ‘Chicken Methi Malai’ with two Naans. We didn’t want too much to eat so we ordered the ‘half’ portion.
Having ordered our food, it wasn’t long before it arrived. Steaming hot and very, very tasty! That said, I tried Captain Clarke’s Roti and could detect no difference whatsoever between that and my Naan bread. They were both delicious, just no difference in taste or texture. Because we were planning on eating a little in the Executive Lounge when we got back to the hotel, we decided that the half portion was appropriate. What we didn’t realise was that it wasn’t a half portion, it was actually half a chicken … each!!! When we got back to the hotel it was difficult to force down a portion of paneer tikka and chicken tandoor! We did, however, manage to wash it all down with a couple of Black Dogs and a glass of wine! Today, I am doing that work thing whilst Captain Clarke is doing some less challenging activities.
We heard in the early hours of this morning that our very good friend Malcolm has passed away. This is very sad, although anticipated, news. We are a long way from home but our thoughts are very much with Sue who has lived through hell for the last few weeks and has done so with style, compassion and with the utmost composure. Malcolm was known for many things but one in particular came to mind this morning – on holiday in Spain several years ago at 10 o’clock in the morning and sitting in a bar, Malcolm sat up and said “Is it too early for a brandy?”. Today, the answer is, without doubt, no!!!