India, our dream or idea of a nightmare

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August 10th 2015
Published: October 20th 2015
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Is this really Delhi?Is this really Delhi?Is this really Delhi?

A calm street in the middle of a bustling city
Sitting on the plane we were both apprehensive about India. Sad to be leaving south east asia but aware that we were going to begin a whole new adventure in India. We spoke excitedly to each other about all the things we were looking forward to: the food, the intricate and beautifully designed forts and palaces. The vibrancy of streets, the colour, and the fact that it leaves its visitors with extreme opinions either completely loving it or vowing never to return.

We questioned what sort of impression we would form. Were we going to love it or hate it? Were we going to be scammed or resist the scammers? Will we want to extend our stay or book the next flight out of there?

Being all too well informed about the dodgy taxis in Delhi who tried to take you to another hotel, we wanted to avoid them. They try every trick up their sleeve; from telling people their booked hostel has closed down, has been renamed, burnt down or has moved location. Rather than go through this on our first day we had 3 options: the airport prepaid taxi's, a taxi sent by our hostel or the metro. Simples we chose the latter. We wanted to start how we wished to go on and surprisingly this was very straightfoward and only cost 100 rupees to the Delhi metro station (right next to the train station and the area of Paharganj where we were staying).

On the metro we looked out of the windows, trying to see what India was all about. Nothing surprised us too much. Highways full of traffic, worn down areas, poor areas. It was similar to built up areas in south east asia although unlike s.e Asia the women noticably wore saris.

Getting off the train it suddenly hit us that we were in India.

Rickshaws lined up outside the station. People spread out on the ground both inside and outside the train station. Just lay there on a piece of plastic or blanket with a bag waiting to board a train. We had to be careful where we stepped in order not to step on people. Some people looked at us but many just sat/lay there with little expression on their faces.

In order to get to Pagarganj we figured we would need to cross the bridge that connects people to the various train platforms but also the other side of the rail track. Walking over the bridge we noticed more levels of poverty and questioned whether the people we saw actually lived in the station.

We would pass families, children sometimes naked, along with the odd elderly man with white knotted dreads. They seemed dirty and dishelved in appearence, their clothes shabby many with tears and holes. We noticed some seemingly washed/wet clothes hung out to dry over the railings of the bridge. Side thought...If they had been washed they had been dipped in water and hung out as they were still very dirty. We looked over the bridge and was surprised to find a women hanging her toddler over the edge of the train platform so that the child could relieve themself. Think the Micheal Jackson baby over balcony scene, very bizzare to us but no one else even batted an eyelid.

After crossing the bridge we arrived at the main bazaar, a shopping street that had many small alleys winding away from this street, one of which held our hostel. Arriving at the start of this street with our backpacks on, we thought to ourselves this could not be more 'India'. It was exactly how we imagined it and maybe more.

It was a complete overload of our senses. Bright illumonous lights, dogs barking, horns honking. The hoards of people here. In some ways with this market street we both felt like we had been somewhere similar but at the same time this was a completely different experience.

After-all we are in INDIA.

Many people weaved their way down the road. Moving in all different directions, up and down the street and in and out of alleyways. Dogs, people, taxi cabs, motorised and peddled rickshaws. It was chaos. Everything moved so fast we couldnt quite keep up. But at the same time everyone else seemed so relaxed. We're not overexaggerating when we say we were the only ones jumping from left to right trying to avoid a near miss. It felt like any moment we could have been knocked over. We were fascinated by it all but extra cautious too.

We were drawn by the food smells, the sounds, the lights. Walking down the main bazaar we spotted many people pushing food carts, with smoke steaming from the top. One delicious looking food stand was situated only 2 meters from some very smelly urinals making us double take. We definately will not be eating there.

Men had small street stalls selling this that and everything. Several cows just relaxed in the road. I know you may already know this to be the case here but seeing is believing. We can't get over the fact that cows were stood relaxed in the middle of this chaos. On one ocassion we rounded a corner to see people selling beautiful coloured saris and a cow stood in front of the stalls right next to a big pile of dump. Seriously!!

The level of poverty here was in your face, seeing many people very dishelved in appearance who look like they are living on the streets. Kids selling things and people begging. We saw a couple of disabled people; a man and a boy on seperate occasions both of whom were hopping on their arms with no use of their legs. This was very difficult to see.

One thing we noticed was that it was mainly men here who sell things and man the stores. Coming from Laos this was very different as in both tourist and local markets you will almost always find the majority of people sat at the stores to be women. We didn't actually see that many women down here but when we did they were being tricyle driven and P almost always commented on their beautiful saris questioning if she bought one would she have many opportunities to wear it back home.

Oh did we say that almost everyone either has or is a close relative of someone who has a tour agency? Many people appearing genuinely friendly would come and talk to us and would most often end up recommending a tour agency. The chai store, the guy selling water, the henna tattoo artist, several random men. This made us laugh.

Intially before we got here being all to aware of scams we were adamant we were going to put our guards up, avoiding conversations, ignoring people when and if we had to. Being here it was very different to what we imagined. Yes we understood there was an agenda from the get go but nevertheless you could not help speak to these people. Everyone is so friendly in India. Shaking your hand and firing off questions one after the other before they even return your hand;

"What country?"

"..and what is your good name?"

"How long in India?"

We couldn't help but get drawn into a conversation. Almost all converstions however ended up with them trying to sell us a service of some sort.

Luckily we had most of our trains booked and hotels (or so we would tell them) and so they soon left us alone.

Even though we effectively had dinner on the plane (a yummy potato ball curry for P accompanied with rice & nan bread and a satifactory roast chicken meal for Chris) we could not resist the wonderful food smells. It all looked a treat. We decided to give it a go.

P ordered a paneer masala curry (paneer is some form of cheese) while Chris ordered a chicken tikka both acompanied with nice naan bread and a mango lassi to top it off. It was delicious.

We also got our first taste of the widely sold chai tea. Finding a small stall with a group of Indian men sipping away we ordered ourselves some chai. Very different to the tea we know and love, this sweet sugary delight with more milk than water and a little bit of spice was actually quite nice. We couldn't wait to sample some more of what India had to offer. Many locals drink this is glass shot tpye cups, that looked dirty and unwashed

So first impressions of India was - we loved it, although P more so than Chris who was not sure how to take it as there was a lot going on. This surprisingly was the very reason P loved it. I guess aafter the slow pace of Loas she felt she needed a change.

Additional photos below
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20th October 2015
Is this really Delhi?

Sensory Overload
Sounds as if you're ready for India. Looking forward to hearing if your spirits continue soaring.
21st October 2015
Is this really Delhi?

Sensory overloas
You just know when people go to India it is full of highs as well of lows. Like many, for us it was certainly both.
21st October 2015
Is this really Delhi?

Sensory overload
You just know when people go to India it is full of highs as well of lows. Like many, for us it was certainly both.
20th October 2015
First meal of the trip

Chaos and yumminess!
Mango Lassis and all the veggie food you'd want--heavenly! I love your impressions of the chaotic daily street life and the contrasts--saris and cow poo, etc. However, the fact that you saw urinals is fabulous. India's been in the news for how men pee all over the walls, and yet there are no places for women to go (hope P finds places to pee). Glad to see that at least part of the problem is being addressed. Good luck with the 'friendly' people!
21st October 2015
First meal of the trip

Choas and yuminess
Never knew that was such an issue before arriving. Don't know if the addition of the urinals were a good thing as you could smell them miles away. Outside the home is generally a mans world you see. Womens needs centre around the home and so there is no percieved need to have public female toilets!
20th October 2015
First meal of the trip

Those naans!
I could so easily munch on a few of those right now. Love this post - you captured the feeling of chaos very well. And p.s. how heavy was that LP guide to carry around?? :)
21st October 2015
First meal of the trip

Thanks Guys. Hope it brought navk memories for you. I remember writing that blog soo quickly recording how I felt. Definatley agree with people who say that you either love or or hate it. Whatever way you will form an opinion. That was certainty one annoyance. It was definitely too big!!
21st October 2015

Many do live...
and die...on the streets. And the kids pee on trains that more often than not have a whole bunch of people riding on the roof. I appreciate your initial description and reactions, and hope that you find that the pros outweigh the cons.
21st October 2015

Many do live..
Thanks Guys. Unfortunately we did not see any people riding on the top of trains during this trip. Sometimes trains were extremely full with people hanging off the sides but never on the top. That would have bern interesting to see though. Yes the squats on the toilets were heavily used and half the time we opted to keep it in. The poverty was certainly a very difficult issue to face here as like you say people live and die on the streets.
21st October 2015

Great description of the chaos that is India. Bought it all back to me. Enjoy. I can't wait to get back there.
21st October 2015

Thanks for the message. Glad we were able to unearth those feelings ☺
22nd October 2015

the feel and style of this entry is very different from your other entries. You make India sound like finding peace amid the chaos. From your first impressions it sounds like you're gonna have a good time. India is not in my bucket list because I loathe being scammed and I usually travel alone. But this makes me wanna give it a try. Although I'd want to pre-book book a tour that would have me chauffered to and fro everywhere so I won't have to talk to scammers.
22nd October 2015

Thanks for sharing this comment. I guess different places inspire us differently and we wrote this on the evening of arriving. This makes a difference to writing a blog a week or so later. India is a country worth a visit, somewhere you just have to experience (even for a short visit). You are right though, there are tons of scammers, very hard to avoid but you have to try to not let it get to you. This can be difficult. Let us know what you think if your opinion changes if you read a few more.
25th October 2015

Vibrancy and sensory overload
There is that moment when you have been in India for a short period of time and you look around at a variety of things and you think to yourself, oh wow, I'm really in India. The unknown awaits and you are excited. The foods, the aromas, the people, the sights...and the smells of urine. You will have a good time even though there is chaos..India has a charm and beauty that cannot be described easily. Eager to read more.
25th October 2015

Vibrancy and semsory overload
Its true. We always hear and see many documentories on tv about India but arriving we were still not prepared for it and its a great moment when it hits you, 'your in India' and it happened to us more than once.

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