Monday, February 29, 2016

A Drive Through Delhi

Indian traffic.  You can read about it--it's terrible, lines are suggestions, everybody honks all the time, there are all sorts of vehicles, people, and animals in the roads--but until you actually experience it, you don't really understand.

In the good news department, I did my homework, and I knew what to expect, so instead of having ALL THE PANIC as every car, truck, motorcycle, auto-rickshaw, and bicycle delivery vehicle became dancers in a truly intimate tango to the music of blaring car horns, I sat up straight and watched.  There has to be some method to the madness.  Despite having people coming within what had to be an inch of the vehicle on all sides, I saw not a single accident on the way from the airport to the hotel, which took about an hour to get to, since I arrived during rush hour.

People wandered through the mayhem of four "lanes" of drivers all trying to funnel into one.  Drivers just stopped in the middle of the street.  Delivery vehicles drove the wrong way down the road.  A goat meandered into the traffic, only to be herded back to the roadside shop where it lived.  At a point where everyone was stopped, a woman with an infant made the rounds, knocking on car windows, making an eating gesture.  Someone gave her an orange.  She was very insistent when she knocked on my window.  I felt like a very bad person when I did not give her anything.  (The issue of beggars in India is a huge one, and worth an entire separate blog--basically, if you're moved by the plight of the poor, and it's impossible not to be, there are better ways to help. I expect this conflicting sense of guilt to be a continuing struggle during my stay here.)

I spotted at least four men peeing on walls.  The smell of the city is very strong.  According to the CDC, Delhi has the worst air pollution in the world.  I believe it.  I'm very grateful that I don't suffer from asthma, or other respiratory issues.  There is refuse everywhere, although I did see a large number of people sweeping the sides of the roads.

To try to stay awake, I walked out the (guarded) gate of my hotel, into an alleyway, where I shadowed locals to walk among the vehicles to the Select CityWalk, a high end shopping mall full of things like United Colors of Benneton, Forever 21, and Guess.  To get into the mall--and my hotel, for that matter--you have to go through a metal detector, and send your bag through a scanner, or have it looked through manually by a guard.  It's a mixed feeling of security that these measures are taken, and sadness that they appear to be necessary.

I managed to stay awake until 4:45 PM, then gave up and slept. Woke up at 11:00 PM, took Ambien, and then slept right on through until 6:00 AM.  Hoping that I did a good enough job to kick my jet lag away.  That stuff is no joke!

So far, everyone I've encountered has been unfailingly polite, and I'm settling well.  Today I'll meet my guide (met the driver yesterday), and anybody else who is a member of my tour, then it's off to begin exploring more of New Delhi.


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