I think that Delhi is a really nice city. I'm sorry if that means I'm not very hardcore, because I've spent more time sipping chai lattes in coffee shop than tropsing through slums or whatever you're meant to do when you're being a traveler (not a tourist). But I happen to like nice things: yummy food, vibrant streets, well-constructed public transport systems, remnants of cultures that go back and back and back. Delhi has all that, and I like it.
According to Sarah, one of the women who David used to work with at the Emmanuel Hospital Association, three quarters of India's rich live in Delhi. By the number of outdoor malls full of jewellery, brand name clothing and homeware stores, I'm not surprised. There are wonderful bookshops with upstairs cafes, where you can eat Greek salads and not worry about getting sick. The bookish air is thick with English language - young, middle class India is reading and conversing entirely in English. The old colonial language is also the language of aspiration and progression; English is the language of the educated and upwardly mobile. English is part of New India - a poignant symbol in the same vein as Levi jeans and Coca-cola.
And so, being the way we are, David and I fit squarely within the ranks of the middle-class, educated, English-speaking people of Delhi. 'Delhi-ites', is the term coined for this category. And it wouldn't be so bad, if it wasn't for the poverty. Ah, that old, wretched poverty, that defines your wealth in all its stark glory. So ubiquitous it's almost cliche. The dirty-faced children with outstretched arms, clamouring at you while the string on your swinging shopping bag plays delicately against your fingers.
When you see those pictures of slums, juxtaposed with high-rises, in your home or office in Melbourne, you can feel a sort of righteous anger - "Such inequality!" you can say, and you secretly despise the rich who allow it to happen. But when it's YOU who is walking down the steps from the upstairs cafe, and it's YOU with the pashmina around the neck...well, who do you have to be angry at now? You feel guilty, but what can you do? You try not to look at the child, because there's too many and you can't give to them all, and anyway, it's better to give to an NGO, isn't it?
"Is it obscene to be eating here in this cafe?" I ask David.
"Any more obscene than eating in a cafe like this in Melbourne?"