Friday, March 14, 2014

FRIDAY DOUBLE POST: POST-1/2; 2014 Trips: Trip No. 1- Another Trip to Delhi

My first trip of the year and one that came after a gap of almost five months was once again to the only place I go to half willingly- New Delhi. All my trips to Delhi have been official with the purpose of attending some meeting or seeing someone important and hence weren’t anxiety inducing. But this trip last week was no ordinary one since I was going to attend a two day workshop that was supposed to be chaired by the Cabinet Secretary himself. This alone was enough to make me sweat all over because the Cabinet Secretary is the top bureaucrat in the country. I had prepared a presentation at the last minute after I came to know that a Collector who was supposed to have come wasn’t making it to the workshop.

On Friday I landed at the venue near Lodhi Garden quite early to check out what the facilities were and reaching before everyone does gives you an idea who is coming and what is expected. Looking at the participants streaming in made me even more nervous because almost all of them were elderly gentlemen wearing suits and ties. I was one of the very few people in a simple dress sans tie or anything. My anxiety was further compounded at the time of the introductions when almost everyone turned out to be either Professor So So or Dr XYZ. They were all Directors or Heads of top institutions in the country and a couple of them turned out to be Vice Chancellors. This was the crowd I had to address and that thought made me wonder why I had agreed to make this trip. My anxiety lessened when the Cabinet Secretary departed after the tea break. Surprisingly, I was calm and when my turn came to speak I think I made a pretty impressive presentation.
I was relieved that my presentation went off without any problem though I felt my mouth dry up at the beginning. Afterwards I relaxed and looked at all the stuff they gave us. If one attends top-drawer workshops like this then one gets top-drawer stuff to take home. Everyone got a beautiful bag with the sort of notebook that I usually carry around to jot down stuff but what took the cake was another item. Usually one gets dinky pens along with a notebook and a plastic folder at such workshops but here I got not one pen but two pens and those too in a box. After the workshop ended on the first day I came into more pens.

I called up a friend who was my room-mate during my stay at Port Blair back in 2006. Rahul Dixit was just an intern at the NGO there when I joined him and now, after about eight years he has come a long way. Rahul came in his car to pick me up and we both went to Hauz Khas where I planned to check out Vandana Book Store in the Aurobindo Market. I had read about it long back and recently I was able to dig out the address. After a long chat with Rahul I went to Vandana and found they had Sheaffer fountain pens that they called the ‘No Nonsense’ model. They were light weight, good to hold and came cheap at Rs 250 each. I bought three of them, two for myself and one I gave to my brother. I thought I could fill ink straight away into the barrel since the pen did not have a filling system. But the pen started to leak so when I got to Hyderabad I went to Deccan Pen Stores in Secunderabad and got a filling system fitted that cost me more than what I paid for the fountain pen. But it writes beautifully and I was terribly glad I had been to Vandana Book Store.

On Saturday, the second day of the workshop, the whole thing was over by lunch time. After lunch I caught the Metro at JLN stadium station and went to Nehru Place. I checked out the Nanda bookstore but couldn’t find any title worth buying. There was a hard copy of Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’and also a hardcover copy of VS Naipaul’s ‘The Masque of Africa’ that I did not buy. I was back in Hyderabad by midnight. This was one trip to New Delhi when I returned without a book.

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