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Published: October 20th 2015
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;
"..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.
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