November 21, 2014

The Delhi Life

All of these hand-woven kashmiri rugs were so pretty, I had a hard time picking which one to take home!
 friends in Delhi. Special thanks to these guys for an amazing time!

"I have to go visit Delhi." My friend Pranav, who grew up in Delhi and now living in Ottawa, would always say in a tone that I would say, "I have to go get a tetanus shot", or "I have to get this wart checked". A way that it is obligated hassle. "What's wrong with Delhi?" I'd always ask, "It kills my soul" he'd always reply.

Delhi is by far the most in-your-face chaotic city I have ever been. Upon arrival outside the airport, the first thing one notice aside from all the sketchy taxi hustlers and the greasy humid air is the smell of Delhi. It doesn't smell like one particular thing, but multiple things combined, in which after a few hours you realize that it's a combination of smog, public urination, animal fecal matter, and garbage.

On the streets of India I've seen multiple men urinating on the side of the street, wads of phlegm being spit out that in some public areas there were even signs that indicate a fine for spitting. If people weren't spitting or urinating, they were throwing their garbage on the streets while stray dogs, cows, goats, monkeys were sorting through them like a mine.

It was on the 4th day in India that I saw two women crouching down while pulling up their saree to urinate outside KFC. I was so desensitized that my first response was, "hey there's KFC here!".

Sometimes when you walk by a restaurant you would smell delicious paneer or chicken tendori, but then a whiff of stench would over come. When I was hanging out with Vineet I made a hobby of asking him what all the smell was, and every time it would be different: "Oh, there's a sewer there.", "Oh, that's just construction.", "Oh, that's from the garbage", "It's probably from those goats".

Traffic in India is ridiculous. No one drives in their lane. 3 painted lanes become 5 lanes filled with tongas, rickshaws and cars. No one follows road signs or rules. Sometimes a cow would be in the middle of the street and everyone has to go around the cow. Everyone honks at everyone because honking on the street is their number one past time, maybe even more than talking on the cellphone. It is common to see a guy driving against traffic on the wrong side of the street while honking the entire time.

On the Yamuna Expressway I saw two dead human bodies.

"Vineet!! I saw two dead people on the express way!" I was stirred. I have never seen dead humans before let alone just them randomly lying on the side of the road.
"Oh, that's common." Vineet said. He didn't even flinch.
"What?! That's awful!!"
"There are 1.35 billion people in India and no one follows traffic rules, someone is bound to get hit."

India, Delhi included, is all about the extremes. Extremely wonderful smell of fragrance oil and incense, or extremely awful smell of some live animal's secretion. Extremely spicy dishes that make your stomach protest, or extremely sweet desserts that make your teeth ache. Extremely rich people that live like Sultans, and extremely poor people that can't even afford to buy rotis to eat. Extremely nice people who go out of their way to help you, or extremely rotten people that wants to con every rupees out of you.

Foreigners might as well wear a bull's eye in Delhi. As soon as a local sees a foreigner their eyes turn into dollar signs, like the cartoons. "Do you want a taxi?", "Do you want your shoes polished?", "Do you want a car charger?", "Can you give me money?", everyone pesters you on the street. Even after you give candy to a begging child, they continue to beg for more things until you shoo them away. Everyone that says 'hello' to you has a purpose. No one actually just wish you a good morning.

When a foreigner wants to buy something, the store person marks the item up by more than 300%. My saree initially cost 4000 rupees in which I haggled down to 800 rupees. A necklace a local can get for 150 rupees they ask a foreigner for 1000 rupees a minute later. Even buying a bottle water on the side of the street or waving a taxi require haggling. "Do they all think we're Scrudge McDuck back home?!", I commented. But in reality, even if you live in a 1 bedroom project with a kitchen and a living room, that is already way better than the majority of the population in India.

I knew it was time to leave the country when I became so immune that I was shooing begging kids away, telling off people who tried to bud in my line, and flipping out at taxi drivers: "I already said NO to those two drivers right in front of you! What makes you think I will say yes to you?!!", as I screamed at the 3rd taxi driver. I guess Pranav was right- Delhi does kill the soul.

But I'll say that for Delhi, though, if you can haggle well, one USD can go far. And often we got this weird high after we haggled and know that we got something for a good price, it was like we earned it, us against them, and they lost against team foreigners. And for whatever reason, within minutes you are back on the Delhi streets, walking through the smog and the roadside animals, you'd be looking forward to whatever delicious and cheap to eat next or whatever awesome thing to haggle even just for fun at some random side booth.