The answer is of course 25 minutes. Provided you start from The Claridges hotel in Aurangzeb Road and leave at around 4:30am. Then it is pretty plain sailing. There is so little traffic around at that hour that in addition to completing the journey in record time it is also possible to take in some of the extraordinary developments that have taken place in Delhi in recent years.
Most of the roads are in great shape. Much of the thanks for that goes to the major facelift the city received in advance of the October 2010 Commonwealth Games. Close by the hotel is Jodhpur House, and further along on the same side Nagaland House. Then just after the Indian Air Force Club is a sight that must bring a smile of relief to the faces of New Delhi commuters: the lift entrance to the Race Course Metro Station. No mere functional box this. A gleaming structure of steel and glass, it looks as though it might take off under its own power and return to the mother ship at any moment.
The airport road itself has changed beyond all recognition. What used to be one lane in either direction featuring stealth trucks and unlit cattle can now accommodate five or six lanes of traffic in each direction. There are flyovers where previously there were junctions that enabled you to play a vehicular version of Russian roulette. And everywhere along the way is additional construction, embryonic hotels, malls and office buildings.
If 25 minutes sounds altogether too rapid you can always kill some time attempting to get into the terminal building without showing a paper ticket to the police guard on duty. His job is to prevent people who are not travelling from cluttering up the airport precincts. All well and good but he is equally willing to prevent people who are travelling from getting inside, unless they can produce some paperwork. For this reason airline staff equipped with lists of passengers patrol the entrance areas (on the inside) looking for lost souls, usually with suitcases, who have fallen at the last hurdle. Next time I will print off my boarding pass.