April 29 was the hottest day Delhi has seen in 50 years: 43.5 Celsius (110 F!). Just our luck that that was the day we had chosen to fly out to the US.


Except we didn’t fly out.


Dad and I were up at 4:30 AM and planned to be on the road from Dehradun by 5. He wasn’t feeling too well, however, so we waited until 6 to depart. We arrived in Delhi at almost two in the afternoon and went straight to our hotel in Paharganj.


Paharganj is not in the leafy, green part of the city where I usually tend to find myself.


It’s near the New Delhi Railway station and its streets buzz with constant activity. There is no end to what you might see. Bicycle rickshaws careen through the narrow lanes, competing with auto rickshaws, scooters, cars and bicycles. Children are everywhere – confident, boisterous, heedless of the traffic, the heat and the crowds – just out there having fun. Every inch of space is filled with purposeful, gainful activity. Nobody seems to loiter in Paharganj.




And there we were, in an area I had never been, which looked a little shady considering I had my 87 year old father with me, booked in a hotel I had only heard about from a friend which, when I called from the road, denied any knowledge of my reservation.


I had booked online at a site called GODWIN HOTELS. Of the hotels in the photo, which would you have gone to?


The one that says GODWIN in huge letters?


Me too.


So I went in to this very dusty lobby, no AC anywhere in the vicinity, and LUCKILY, they said we didn’t have a reservation there. After a lot of hilarious exchanges, during which our luggage was removed from the car and put back into it several times, we came to the conclusion that the hotel in the picture was the wrong one and the one right next door, the one that said GRAND with Godwin in tiny letters beneath it, was the one where we had signed up.

Thank GOD! God won!

It was the HOTEL GRAND (Godwin) all along, and what a lovely, shining, perfect hotel it turned out to be ( 4 Stars**** on the Jo Chopra Scale).




After we checked in, Dad went straight to bed and I headed out for the mean streets of Delhi, with HIS shopping list for all the grandchildren (and a few little items of my own). Every now and then, I called the desk staff at the hotel and asked them to bring Dad some nimbu pani and check that the AC was functioning. 



They were lovely, treating Dad like an honored guest and showering him with attention and smiles.


And here we come to a fundamental aspect of life in India. Elderly people, by and large, RULE.


When I take Dad anywhere – shopping, for example – we walk into the store and instantly one of the clerks, leaps up to help usher him in. They call for a chair so he can sit in comfort and then scurry about bringing things to him for his inspection. 




img_3838And not only in the large and spacious shops – even in this tiny bookstore where we went on our last day in India, though it was crowded with people and really had no space even to swing a cat (which we were both SO keen to do), they managed to find a little stool in a corner for Dad and got him situated snugly there. Even the guard at the door found a book he wanted Dad to see. 

It’s what I most appreciate on his behalf: the feeling here that an elderly person is important and special and – LUCKY. When I tell people my father is living with us, the universal response is “Oh, that’s WONDERFUL! You’re so LUCKY.”

In America, while people do have their parents live with them, the response from others tends to be sympathetic: “Oh that must be tough. How do you manage?” 

I’m no hero. I can find Dad trying at times, and my life has slowed down considerably since he came to stay. He and the biddies (that’s what we call Mummy and Masiji) are all deaf and conversations at our dinner table are hilarious and absurd (when not frustrating and crazy-making.  My evening walks, now that I go at his speed, are an exercise in patience, and I often answer the same question a dozen times in less than half an hour.

But all my friends, all my neighbors, everyone I work with, everyone I meet in this amazing country tells me how lucky I am. It’s part of the air here, it comes to me in my dreams, it’s filtered through the leaves and comes in on the wind: these are the days I have with my father, my mother-in-law, my masiji. How lucky, how lucky, how lucky. 



  • chicu

    regret not coming over to say bye to Papa Mcgowen, Jo. do give him my love..

Leave a Comment