One Month AnniversaryDelhi, Fall 2012
It is hard to believe, but this week marks my one month anniversary with Delhi. When I first came here, I was the quintessential stranger in a strange land. Everything was new, everything was different – it was a place full of mystery and intrigue. Put bluntly, I had no idea where I was or what I was doing.
Time goes by, and we adapt. Everything feels a little less strange now – my rickshaw driver ran into a bird the other day, breaking its neck and leaving its blood and feathers stained on the windshield, and no one even flinched as we drove on. C’est la vie. The out of the ordinary has slowly become the ordinary, and at this time environments begin to reveal their truer form. In this mindset, here are a few survival lessons which I have come to rely on:
Delhi is big – there are 15 million people in this city. Homes are packed closely together, markets are constantly bustling, the streets remain lined with people at all hours of day. The population of India is ten times denser than that of the United States – a statistic very noticeable in urban life.
Dehli is developing. This is a large point which I will likely expand upon in the future, but on the surface you can find everything from ancient temples to colonial government buildings to traditional street markets to brand new western mega-malls, often within the same square mile. Poverty and riches come hand in hand here, and the history of the city is quite literally written in its streets.
The markets are better than the malls. While you probably won’t come across many designer brands, you can haggle, find cooler stuff, pay exponentially less money, and get something like an authentic shopping experience.
“Mujhko Nahin Chahiye” means “I don’t need it” in Hindi, a very useful phrase to foreigners. For example, yesterday at the central market I was approached by one gentleman looking to sell me his peacock feathers. While the feathers were nice, I am not in the market for such commodities, and thus issued this polite refusal.
Like everything, “sanitation” is relative. I’ll let your mind get carried away with that one.
Learn to trust the food. While it is easy to eat every meal at McDonalds, the best food often from the tiniest hole in the wall establishments. My favorite local place has only three tables in a tiny room above the kitchen. While the waiter doesn’t speak a lick of English, I almost always get the noodles, so we’re cool.
Anything goes. At times it feels like anarchy in the streets on account of the aforementioned constant stimulation, dense population and reckless driving. I have come to expect an adventure every time I leave my apartment.
I’ll stop here for now, as to not beat a dead bird (I don’t think that’s how the saying goes, but the pun was irresistible).
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