New Delhi Part I: "What is, is."

February 11, 2007

Dear Family and Friends,


Just recently my friend Siri sent me this note:

India has been interesting. I have to be honest that I don't much like it so far, but I'm trying to wait until the end of my trip to make any judgments. Varanasi is way better than Delhi which I hated and was a nightmare! Hopefully it will just get better.

Yes. I agree. It is easy to "hate" New Delhi. Just as any other frenetic city of 14 million souls, it can be a "nightmare." (Yes,14 million. That's all of New York City and all of the City's suburbs combined. Plus two million more.)

First, the traffic. Every type of conveyance with wheels known to ancient man and to modern man is on every street, clogged up everywhere, all at once. Added to the maze, every species of domesticated animal, except maybe the llama, is on every street everywhere all at once. How easy it is to "step in something."

Next, the noise. Every type of automotive warning sound, including taxi drivers blowing whistles, everything blares on every street, everywhere all at once, from just before dawn until just before midnight.

Delhi is a modern city with modern office buildings and modern apartment buildings and modern shopping malls and hotels and transport. Delhi is an ancient city; actually at least eight ancient cities are built up on top and around each other. That's why the newest version built by the British, is called New Delhi. Streets are choked with cars and trucks squeezing though alleys meant for horses. Modern boulevards have traffic lights and lane markings and even traffic police. But who's paying attention?

And speaking of "choked" . . . pollution is the nightmare. Control devices are just a dream.

Train stations and airports and tourist spots are crowded with "touts" pulling every type of bullshit scam known to ancient man and modern man. Young men hustle: "Hello. What's your name? What country do you come from?" is their routine. Siri reports that men are constantly hassling her and her friend.

And everywhere . . . people. Businessmen dressed in suits carry laptops. Shop-owners scurry to the temple to pray for a successful day. Workers transport bricks or long pipes. Women laborers carry construction sand in huge baskets on their heads.

Families live on the sidewalk on cardboard mats or under tents in tent cities. With infants in their arms, young women beg for money. Young girls perform acrobatics at intersections hoping for a little fee from passing taxi drivers or passengers. And everywhere, grown men face a wall, standing with their back to the traffic, their hands below their waist as they answer nature's call.

Internet descriptions of hotel rooms and facilities can be a fiction.

There is much to dislike. As a first stop, Delhi is full of the "unusual." There are reports of Westerners arriving, spending a day or two and heading right back home on the next airplane.

I am here in India for five weeks. The small photos in my guidebook bring tears to my eyes as I anticipate the spectacular.

I do my best to remember thoughts from my own travel philosophy:

First, "What is, is."

And, "Be happy where you are."

So, despite the din, the tumult and the trash, I am off to see the sights.

Add new comment