Such an apt word to describe India ...it's glory..colours...contrasts!
It's Diwali festival this week, today (Wednesday) is the main evening..lots of fireworks and firecrackers filling the air with smoke and a very distinctive smell..unlike fireworks back home...they must lace there's with spice!
Not sure where to start...well in the fine words of Julie Andrews...although not her own....
At the very beginning....I flew in Monday evening arriving at the Indira Gandhi Airport Delhi ..very modern with new terminals.
The journey to the Hotel took one and half hours, the Hotel and resort Jaypee is owned by the same family and company that built the new circuit...so as with the circuit the resort has the look of being completed five minutes ago!....
But what an amazing new complex, lots of private villas, serviced apartments where I am and a big hotel where I am not...drew the short straw this time...but nevertheless..5 star service.. A huge golf course opposite...2 massive real life Elephants outside the main gates!..I have seen many animals since I arrived! wild cows and monkeys co-habiting with humans... amazing..if the cow wants to cross the road then all the traffic stops...the monkeys seem to spend there time on various rooftops....I say rooftops... most of these roadside buildings...shacks....don't have roofs!
I took a trip to see the Taj yesterday, booked a car from the hotel. The trip to Agra took 4 hours..wow what a journey!
I must say I have never seen such poverty and desperate living conditions, we passed so many townships all by the roadside...so hard to describe the appalling squalid nature of these places.......buildings in total ruin yet inhabited by so many.... directly in front of many a mass of household rubbish ..strewn across pools of effluent, often with a makeshift little plank acting as a bridge to get to the roadside....next to this sits the vendors selling fruit and veg and other items to celebrate the passing of Diwali...then the animals can be seen just idly wondering.....
Many of these people have no money..but all have big booming smiles ...curiously the seem content, happy....in control in many ways...an utter paradox!
They all have curious forms of transport...took some amazing pictures of...families astride a motorbike...5 members...then there were the tut tuts...think that what they call them....these little piaggio 3 wheel mopeds with a shell and seats...I had no idea so many people could squeeze in one!..speaking of squeezing ..it's just accepted that 6-7 people can hang on to the rear of these vehicles on the highway!
Arrived to the Taj....so beautiful! everything you imagine it to be..and not masses of people either..
A tour guide tagged me..but actually was a good move ..although he did try to get me to buy all sorts of Taj crap!....doesn't matter what monument... building you find yourself at...you can always be sure that crap merchandise is never too far from the place!!
He also led me to the Diana bench!..as it's known here..well the queue to sit and be photographed was enormous...not sure what the guide said or did..but suddenly he led me to the bench ..the crowds parted!..there I was having my picture taken...funny!...
I learnt today that Mr Ecclestone went to visit the Taj by helicopter...if only I had known that...could have sponged a ride!...we could have both sat on Diana's bench!..I hope he did ....perhaps you will see that in the papers.
Only there 2 hours then the 4 hour journey back...but really worth the visit..suffice to say the Taj will appear in my painting..
This morning (Thursday) was taken to the circuit, FOM has access to some drivers to chauffeur us back and forth, the track Buddh International circuit of India is 20 mins from the Hotel, lots of roadside banners and hoardings advertising the race...new roads built to service the circuit too, as we approached one could see the main grandstand getting bigger and bigger!...by far the biggest stand I've seen...enormous...with a roof thats fashioned like a wave...little like the new silverstone pit complex.
The circuit is designed by Herman Tilke....inevitably!...I must say it's an amazing circuit!
This afternoon I took a walk around the track...always love doing this..it's a real treat,,and knowing that being new ..no drivers have accelerated in anger yet!...half way around the track I was met by the Sutton brothers very famous photographers- Sutton images...really nice guys...not at all the stereotypical snappers I have mentioned in previous blog!....the 3 of us were then met on bicycles by Massa and his race engineer Rob Smedley, we all had a chat ..as one does in the middle the circuit!.Rob was saying that the drivers will love the track...there are many duel racing lines for the drivers to take..this is unusual...makes for an exciting race..
.all the drivers walk, cycle or run the track with their engineers, but because this is the inaugural race they of course spend much more time..great to watch !
Met the promoter and CEO of the circuit Sameer, I had previously met him in Mr E's office in London, so knows all about the project, said he would line up some Bollywood celebs!..cool!
My driver took me to a Fabric shop, he pulled up outside...these guys sitting outside the shop ..saw me get out the car, then immediately rushed inside preparing the shop for the tourist!!...funny to see...but I'm a canny shopper now...haggled them down to a price that suited us both...it really takes so much time...but actually I quite enjoy this....although I made the fatal error in telling them that I was the F1 artist!....bought some lovely fabric..so pleased!
Back at hotel, there's a big reception tomorrow night...not sure if I'm invited yet...hope so!