Two days before I flew to India, I had a wisdom tooth removed in New York City. That emergency dental procedure was obviously unanticipated during the time, months earlier, when I was making the travel arrangements for my 2 1/2 week trip to India and Sri Lanka. When I arrived at Indira Gandhi International Airport in the Indian capital of New Delhi, I was still suffering intermittent mouth pain (and the soreness would continue to crop up periodically for the rest of the trip). Because I was recovering from oral surgery, and because there are certain precautions that any traveller to India is advised to take, I was carrying a small pharmacy around in my daypack: painkillers; an antibiotic to protect against the risk of infection; anti-malaria pills that my travel doctor had prescribed for me; and Cipro, another antibiotic that I would take if I were to contract the intestinal ailment that’s affectionately known as “Delhi Belly.” (Spoiler alert: I did indeed succumb to Delhi Belly before the trip was over.) But the presence of an open wound in my mouth didn’t prevent me from singing karaoke at my earliest opportunity after landing in a new country! Additionally, one of my trademarks when travelling is to seek out quirky museums; and I found a suitably offbeat one in Delhi.
(A note for my fellow geography geeks: Before I knew any better, I used the terms “New Delhi” and “Delhi” interchangeably. That usage was in error. New Delhi is actually a section of the much larger megalopolis of Delhi. New Delhi’s population is a mere 300,000, give or take, while the complete expanse of Delhi (which is also known as the National Capital Territory of India) harbors nearly 18 million residents at last count. However, New Delhi alone is the capital of the nation and contains all of the governmental institutions. Both the karaoke bar and the museum that are discussed below are located in New Delhi.)
Karaoke: Bringing the sounds of Billy Joel to India
My Indian karaoke debut took place at a joint called Harry’s Karaoke Lounge Bar. Harry’s is on an upper level of a sprawling shopping mall, and while the rest of the mall was deserted on a Sunday night, Harry’s was hopping.
For my first song on Indian soil, I chose Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind.” Now ordinarily, for such a momentous occasion, I would post a video for posterity. But I can’t do that in this case. Harry’s wasn’t well-lit, and as a result the footage of my performance came out with poor visual quality. (The singing area in Harry’s hadn’t seemed unduly dark; I didn’t realize how weak the lighting conditions in Harry’s had been until I tried watching the video on my laptop in my hotel room the next day.) I’ve therefore uploaded the recording as an audio file only. And now, I invite you to listen to me singing a Billy Joel song in New Delhi.
Regrettably, due to the lack of accompanying video, you can’t watch me unleash my signature leg kick at the conclusion of the song. 🙂 But you can still get a sense of the energy that was in the air at Harry’s. The bar was packed by the time I was called up to sing, and as you can hear, the crowd was effusive in its support. That night in New Delhi takes its place among my most satisfying and enjoyable karaoke experiences of all time — right up there with my nights in Panama City, Paris, Frankfurt, and Kiev.
By virtue of this performance, on March 23, 2014, India became the 33rd country on my World Karaoke Tour. (Subsequently, the total number of countries has increased to 35.) While I’m disappointed that I have no serviceable video to preserve the memories of my night at Harry’s, I did learn from the technical difficulties. After returning to New York City, at the suggestion of fellow travel vlogger FreshTraveler, I purchased a spotlight that attaches to my camera. Now I’m able to ensure that my videos receive adequate lighting regardless of the level of illumination at the venue. The spotlight has become an essential part of the gear that I travel with, at least for trips that I expect to include karaoke.
A museum that’s flush with success
Several hours before karaokeing at Harry’s, I paid a visit to the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets. (Sulabh International, which runs the museum, is a nonprofit organization that promotes, among other things, hygienic sanitation practices.) This cultural institution provides a fascinating and lighthearted overview of the history of devices for the disposal of human waste.
Although not a large facility, the museum consists of both indoor and outdoor displays; the open air portion reflects that outhouses, privies, and the like play a significant role in the story that the museum tells.
I didn’t do much else in New Delhi; I wasn’t there for very long, I was adjusting to the jet lag (as well as taking things easy due to my ongoing recovery from the wisdom tooth extraction), and India’s capital city was merely the jumping-off point for my adventures on this particular journey. Additional locales on my itinerary included the Indian metropolises of Amritsar, Agra, Jaipur, and Mumbai, plus Colombo in the nearby tropical island nation of Sri Lanka. Of those other cities, I would make additional karaoke appearances in Jaipur, Mumbai, and Colombo. Here you can watch me performing in Jaipur; the song is the theme from the film Footloose:
As my journey continued and I hopscotched among various dots on the map, I would encounter an array of wonders including temples, palaces, and a mausoleum that you may have heard of. But priorities, people; what’s most important is that I can say I sang karaoke in India!