Day 1 - 7th May 2017
I did not book a room for tonight because Dr Harbeen (the Global Chairperson for Women Economic Forum and All Ladies League) told me that if the Hotel had the room ready I could check in as early as 9 am so for just a few hours it didn't make sense to book a room.
I arrived at the hotel at about 2 am and at 6.30 am I decided to go and see a bit of New Delhi, leaving my backpack at the luggage storeroom at the hotel. It was already about 32 degrees at that time. My choices as to travelling around Delhi on my own are very clear and simple: I travel with an open heart, in acceptance of local culture and customs, in appeciation and gratitude, safely, allowing no one to disrespect me in the same way that I respect others.
Some people look at the statistics – they subjectively say it is the capital city leader of rape in the world. I, however, simply choose. And I chose to travel in the underground and visit some monuments.
Apparently the underground is one of the safest ways for a woman to travel alone in New Delhi but I was unaware of this fact. So much for making Conscious Choices. It even has a carriage just for women, an emergency police help line for women and places on the platforms just for women. All over the place there are security checks and... there is air conditioning;) so it is bliss after moments spent up in the unrelenting heat.
I did not use the women's carriages though and was very happy with the experience anyhow. Respect breeds respect and self-respect is a statement in itself. We do indeed attract what we believe in and what we are bringing out into the world around us.
I started by buying a token for one journey which seemed fine. That was because at the station where I first entered the underground - Aerocity - there was hardly anyone comparing to the humungous crowd I walked into at the central station where I got off to change lines! When I first arrived at Aerocity metro station I had thought there were quite a lot of people walking around in the underground considering the time it was. Little did I know I had seen nothing yet.
I soon realised getting tokens for each journey was a task in itself. Everyone just steps in front of each other with no sense of order whatsover which means that for a newcomer like me it seems like a never ending story, this song and dance of getting my turn. I decided to get a rechargable pass and went to another queue. The guys (there are only guys in queues) kept on pointing me off to the front and I kept on saying I'd wait for my turn but I eventually surrendered after much insistence and jumped the line right up to the front. Just as I was getting ready to ask for my pass a lady steps in front of me and I'm there, observing how the people around me get ahead.
I manage and get my card. Phew! That took care of queues for the day! At least for tickets. This card is like the Oyster card in London or the green card we get in Lisbon's underground but with a huge difference: it is valid for 10 years!!!!
There were as many people in the underground at 6.30 am as there are in Lisbon at rush hour during the week and it was Sunday here!
My first impressions of immersion in India were mixed, completely in tune with what I had read so many times from travellers exploring this land of contrasts.
Mother India is a diverse, intense experience of Compassion, Patience and complete Acceptance where extreme poverty is seen as a law of life. There is an underlying innocence in these people, an ease I cannot put into words.
There are moments when the noise can be deafening, others when an unfathomable silence can be felt. There is an enlightened wisdom in the air, blended with a somewhat childish way of going about every day life.
The broken streets and derelict buildings are suffused by bright colours that somehow mitigate the initial shock the whole portrait brings about. There is rubbish everywhere but stangely enough it does not reek. In fact it smells of spices and incense and though it is terribly hot at this time of the year (apparently May is the hottest month! – I wonder why the Global WEF event is in May?) somehow the garbage does not give off the odour one would expect.
Mostly people on the streets have no notion of garbage bins, possibly because the garbage collection system simply cannot keep up with the amount of rubbish made every day. Have I told you about the amount of people here?
Anyhow, apparently recycling somehow gets done (though not nearly enough to stop the streets from being consistently littered). Plastic can be worht money so some of the rubbish gets collected to hand in for recycling. Water bottles all have a recommendation on them: "crush after use". The reason is that if not, water bottles will be filled with tap water and sold again.
There were moments during my morning touristic exploration when I felt I could no longer take it and then somehow bounced back to wanting more. The racket, the temperature, the amount of people, the traffic… and then again the beauty, the feeling of freedom that comes from na organic culture, the lightness, something that transcends physical heaviness and that I cannot define… So much so that I ended up arriving back at the hotel at around 2.30 pm, with a full heart, my head buzzing with the noise and the heat outside, my body aching for a rest after not having slept more than 6 hours in total over the last two nights. A world of contrasting acceptance in me and around me :)
One fifth of the world's population lives on this land - about 1.3 billion people. And most of them are in cities. In Delhi there are people everywhere at all times and the traffic is ceaseless, no matter at what time. There are people heading for work at all hours and as far as I have seen people welcome work, even if it's at the strangest hours. The average lowest salary is 400 to 600 rupees a month - about 8,50€, though there are huge differences in this area and some earn millions. In fact some of the richest men in the world are Indian. So opposing contrasts are the rule of the day. Over eighteen million people live in Delhi and many of them are entrepreneurs – even the tuc owners, the fruit and vegetable stand owners, the chai vendors and so and so on. It is a haven of entrepreneurs who however would be much better off in the vast land where there is space, good land to cultivate, no pollution… I suppose the dream of the city is a worldwide exodus of the masses which I have a little trouble to fully understand but that is a fact anyway.
Back to my Hotel room. Perfect is all I can say. I have been given a roommate but she will only be checking in tomorrow. I don't know her but I trust we will get on just fine:)
After a well deserved rest I decided to go downstairs to do my registration in the Conference and check things out. The amount of preparation that goes into an event this size is amazing. Literally over 100 people working to put everything together technically and logistically, let alone the WEF/ALL staff and volunteers, also 100+ and the hotel staff. An event of massive proportions.
My dear friend Getrude Matshe could not come this time but has connected all of her friends via facebook messenger so we arrange to meet downstairs. I first meet Jessica Sanchez, founder of Spiritual Wellness MD, Pauline Crawford-Omps, Ambassador of Magical Conversations (http://voiceatthetable.com/our-team/dr-pauline-crawford/) and a bit later on Tiffany Rashel, who has managed to be here against all odds, even when her Visa was denied she insisted and insisted until the very last minute and managed to come. Congratulations on the persistence Tiffany (https://www.tiffanyrashel.com/)! … They are all part of the Advisory Executive Committee for WEF New Mexico and Grenada which will be right after WEF New Delhi. I am also supposed to be part of this Advisory Executive Committee but I have relinquished the post because I realized I couldn’t possibly manage to do a good job helping organize these events with all of the other projects going on in my life at the moment. I believe it is more productive for all if we are able to realize from the beginning whether we can take on certain projects or not, than to say yes to all of them and then not do any of them properly.
Meanwhile I congratulate all of these wonderful ladies for pulling the event through – it is almost happening and they are here too J WEF New Mexico starts on the 22nd May.
Back to WEF New Delhi…
The opening dinner was a blessing of abundance in all senses, which I am humbly thankful for. It was held out in the hotel’s garden and it was a feast of beauty, scents and tastes. A great start to the upcoming 6 days…
And now let's fast forward to day 2 - day 1of the event itself.