Day By Day

Monday, January 02, 2012

Adventures in India, Part 1 -- Delhi, First Impressions

Our first experience of India was the Delhi airport, a thoroughly modern facility where we met our tour guide, passed through the seemingly endless lines at immigration and customs and security and finally boarded a bus for transport to our hotel.

These hands hovered over our heads as we entered the first of a series of checkpoints. I was told that the gestures carry specific meanings, but nobody knew just what they meant.

At the hotel we were met by lovely young women who hung flower garlands around our necks and placed red dots on our foreheads.

The first shock of the unfamiliar came as we were driven from the airport to the hotel. Traffic in India is more chaotic than I have seen anywhere else we have traveled -- much worse. Everyone seems to be playing "chicken" with everyone else and, as our tour guide put it, all drivers assume that they are immortal and trust to "destiny". He also introduced us to the drivers' mantra: "All vehicles shall be driven in accordince with the maxim -- to slow is to falter, to brake is to fail, to stop is defeat". It sounded pretty accurate to me.The yellow and green golf-cart sized cars are everywhere. They are cabs that run on natural gas and the colors indicate that they are "green" vehicles.

A second shock was to see very young children begging on the street. Sometimes they feigned disability, as this kid did. Shortly after I took this picture he jumped to his feet and scampered off to the side of the road. For some reason this bothered me more than I thought it would.

A young couple on their motorcycle. Note the tiny tot sandwiched between them.

Trucks, autos, and buses share the road with all manner of things, like these camels. At least they were not obstructing traffic..., this time.

Pedicabs or rickshaws are quite popular in Indian cities. You see them carrying people and all matter of goods, and of course they obstruct traffic everywhere they go.

When we arrived in Delhi it was near the end of Ramadan, a time when Muslims severely restrict their diet. The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid al Fitr, a day of feasting and religious observance. The main streets were clogged with goatherds who brought their animals into the city where they were sold to be sacrificed and eaten on that holiday.

Yeah, traffic in Delhi was pretty much of a mess, although worse was to come.

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