A conspiracy theory had to be around the corner, and one has been invented. Apparently, though I claim to be a freelancer, I have 'intimate links' to Outlook Traveller and Time Out, which are rivals to Lonely Planet. The person who wrote that obviously doesn't understand what a freelancer is. We freelancers write for anybody who pays well enough. Tomorrow I'd happily write for LP if they offered me a story and sent me to an interesting location.
The Outlook Traveller experience, in fact, was a disaster. I wish there was some way I could remove my name from the piece on the Web. My story was changed radically and a number of new sentences added, containing factual errors. For example, the City Palace is called "a complex of beautiful buildings in granite and marble". Anyone who has been to Udaipur knows there's very little granite and marble in the City Palace. But there the error stays, with my name attached.
I was so furious with Outlook after that assignment, that I swore off writing for them, before agreeing to do a piece just fifteen days ago. None of the editorial staff responsible for shredding my Rajasthan articles are there any more, so I decided to let bygones be bygones.
Still, I am some way from being an Outlook Traveller shill.
I'm much more loyal to Time Out; after all, I had a column in the mag for years, and think it's kept an incredibly high standard since its inaugural issue. But my Time Out loyalty doesn't extend to guidebooks. I bought Lonely Planet India, after all, not the Time Out guide. That was because I liked the LPs I used on foreign trips. The only Time Out guide I have consulted was the Chicago one, and I didn't find it particularly useful.
Meanwhile, I'm in Delhi again, trying to get a paper done for a seminar tomorrow. I've visited about once each month for the past six, and discovered in the process that Delhi drivers know nothing about the city. One time, I wanted to go to the India International Centre, asked the driver if he knew it, or IIC or the Habitat Centre (which the autowallas usually know). He kept shaking his head. I said finally, OK, just take me to Lodi Gardens and I'll direct you from there.
He had not heard of Lodi Gardens.
Today my driver got lost looking for Kasturba Gandhi Road and then Maharani Bagh. Luckily, I've developed a habit of picking up one of the free maps on the India Tourism counter at the airport. It's always proved really useful, and even more so now that every tourist car driver seems to have arrived in Delhi within the past six months.
UPDATE: October 28. This evening after the seminar was done for the day I was chatting with a few friends including Jitish Kallat. Jitish is staying in the same guest house as I am, in Maharani Bagh.
I said to him, "You got in pretty late last night".
He said, "It took me two and a half hours from the airport. The driver took me to a place called Rani Bagh. After about forty-five minutes of driving from the airport, I began to suspect this wasn't where I should be heading. I asked the driver if he was sure. He said he was absolutely sure, 'Rani Bagh used to be Maharani Bagh, now everyone called it Rani Bagh for short'."
Once at Rani Bagh Jitish grew doubly sure this couldn't be his destination. Rani Bagh is in north-west Delhi and Maharani Bagh in the south-east.