After my first day in India, I thought to myself, “I could never like Delhi. This place is too crazy, too dirty, too chaotic for me to ever enjoy.” After three days here, I not only like it a lot, but I am a little sad to leave tomorrow. The frenetic pace, in-your-face poverty, crowds of people, and ever-present filth are startling and shocking at first, but I have quickly grown to enjoy it. Let me tell you about it.
1. India is filthy
We arrived at night to the Pahar Ganj district of Delhi and it was a little wild and unnerving to say the least. I’ve been to big, dirty cities before like Lima, Guatemala City, Cairo and Hanoi, but this blew all of those out of the water. We were prepared for it to be filthy, but in the words of Kristi, “My brain wouldn’t allow myself to think of anything that filthy.”
Walking down the street, the scent of curry, frying food, incense, pollution, poop (cow, human, dog) and the ammonia smell of urine all blast you at different intervals. The sights, the noises, the smells – it is really an assualt on the senses quite unlike anything I’ve experienced and I wouldn’t criticize anyone who said they hated it, for in many ways it is terrible and unnerving.
2. Indian food is as good as advertised
For my first four meals in India I had a thali, not so much because I wanted a thali, but because it was the only thing on the menu I recognized. A thali consists of assorted curries, veggies, sauces and dips on a tray to mix with rice and eat with bread. It is a personal buffet. You can never go wrong with a thali. The food is nose-running spicy and the flavors are intense. I branched out today and had meat for the first time which was mutton in a fiery sauce with bread. It was probably the spiciest thing I’ve eaten for breakfast my whole life.
3. I feel very safe in India
If a person were to mug me here, there’d be at least 400 witnesses. I’m not even sure there is enough space for a mugger to operate on the street. This place is crowded and I knew that coming into it. It is the 7th most crowded city in the world with 75,000 people per square mile. The county I grew up in, Woodward County, Oklahoma, has 20,000 people spread out across 1,245 sq. miles. There are people everywhere here!
4. India is very, very cheap
Here are some sample prices
10 minute Tuk Tuk ride – 20 cents to $2, depending on our ability to negotiate
Vegetarian Thali for two – $3
1L bottle of water – 15 cents (that feels like free)
Diet Coke – 30 cents
Transport on the Metro – 15 to 20 cents
Entrance into Hunayum’s Tomb – $5
Having said that, our hotel is grossly overpriced at $19. It features an AC that doesn’t work, a fridge that doesn’t work, a TV that works but there is only one channel in English and a fan that has two speeds – “off” and “airplane propeller mode.” Our room is a marginally clean cell-like place with no windows. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I’d pay $19 to stay here in the States.
So, those are my impressions after three days in Dehli. This is also my first ever blog post from the road, so a sort of personal milestone. Like my Facebook page to follow along on our trip through India.
Have you been to India? What were your first impressions?