At 11 o'clock on Monday morning, I landed at Palam on the first day of New Delhi's winter season. It had rained the previous night and the city had suddenly turned cold. Well, 15 degrees Celsius, but arriving from Bombay's warm cacoon comfort, it felt cold to me.
Cool and chlorophyl green, the city spread put on both sides of what must be the best-surfaced and maintained roads in the country, as I was driven into town. The morning mist still hung in the trees and it would be there throughtout the day and the whole season.
Like in a large private garden, there were hundreds of the men at work, mowing lawans, purning trees, laying fresh beds of plants in traffic islands. While Bombay has been turned into Mumbai, New Delhi has evidently been turned into the showpiece of the nation.
The differences between the two cities are striking. Delhi smells clean, Bombay smells dirty, Delhi is bunglowed and empty, Bombay is tenements and crowded. Only the DTC buses. Hammered and wrecked by a succession of agitators from Mandal to Mondir, spoil the view.
Though as I was driven further into the town center and along the Bhadurshah Zafar Marg, repeatedly and annoyingly referred to as the Fleet Street of India, I realised that Delhi can be crowded and disorderly also. At one end of the street stands the Express House, at the other end Link House, and in-between are the offices of scores of the capital's newspapers, except for the Times (Hindustan) and The Statesman, which has now gone into real estate business and is constructing a multi-storyed building on its premises, with an ultra-modern pernthouse for its managing director.
At Link House are the spanking new offices of Mr. Lalit Thapar's yet-to-be-born Delhi Pioneer. When I arrived there, Mr. Vinod Mehta (yes, the same), editor-in-chief, was in conference with his various associate editors in charge of national news, foreign news, metropolitan news, Saturday colour section, Sunday magazine black-and-white section, a Sunday magazine colour section, business news, photo journalism. Later, conference over, he showed me around the office. I must say, it is the busiest office I have ever seen for a newspaper that is yet to come out.
The rest of the afternoon and early evening was allotted, by our Delhi office, for me to meet ministers. Though why I should meet ministers, or ministers should meet me, I have not understood. As it turned out, there were no meetings. Since 45 ministers those with whom meetings were fixed and those with whom they were not, were all out of Delhi.