After an uncomfortable overnight flight we landed at Indira Ghandi International airport to be greeted by Alex Murphy and a number of players from Delhi Hurricanes RFC, our first opposition of our tour of India. They all looked worryingly young and fit but we were a little relieved to find out that they would be lending us some players, including their captain and the captain of the Indian national side.
Our journey to the hotel was eventful with an altercation with a trishaw. Delhi traffic is everything as chaotic as you may have heard and it deserves its own separate article on this blog! On arrival we were warmly welcomed and allowed a few hours to recuperate with a mixture of eating, drinking, sleeping and using the outdoor pool, although I didn’t see anyone keen enough to use the gym.
We gathered in the hotel meeting room for a briefing of what to expect over the next nine days and it was clear that we had a very busy schedule ahead of us and that our tour could make an impact on the development of rugby in India. We were all presented with our tour shirts before preparing to leave for the first function of the tour, a welcome by Delhi Hurricanes RFC to their clubhouse.
Click here for pictures of the shirt presentation
The Hurricanes are based in Maidan Gari village which is a community in central Delhi, and although Alex had hinted at what would happen that evening, none of us were prepared for the kind of welcome we received. The coach pulled off the main highway down an alley barely wide enough for it, but after fifteen minutes of tortuously slow progress we saw a big crowd of people waiting to greet us. As we got off garlands were put around our necks and we walked in procession through the narrow streets accompanied by three separate bands of drummers and musicians. Words can’t adequately describe the noise, the energy and the enthusiasm to meet us that we encountered but the video below may give you some idea.
We eventually came to a small area where we were seated and all given lengths of cloths which were made in turbans for us while music played and presentations made, but in truth we couldn’t hear or see much for the clamour of people wanting to take photographs with us. We moved on to the clubhouse which was on the roof of an apartment block where a light breeze gave us some relief from the stifling 35c heat. There we were offered traditional rugby fare of curry and lager, but as you can imagine the lager was Kingfisher and the curry could not be more authentic, with mutton, goat and cottage cheese options brought to our tables.
The talk and banter was just like at any other rugby club; speeches were made, presentations received and we eventually made our way back to the coach, passing the occasional cow incongruously lying down in an alley, for the journey back to the hotel which wasn’t without incident but more of that in a future article.
I am hurriedly writing this while the players are having an early morning training session ahead of tomorrow’s 7am kick off against the Hurricanes. Today will be very busy with school visits and a dinner in the evening, but everyone agreed that our first day in India had been a memorable one.
Click for photos of the evening