Friday, March 11, 2016

New Delhi

I made it to India!
It's 4:30 in the morning Delhi time. I'm sitting cross legged on the cool marble floor of the guest house bathroom listening to a honking horn and street dog symphony just outside my window while attempting to make good use of the limited wifi signal and get caught up on writing.  It has been four days and I still haven't fully adapted to the 12 hour time difference here. Though frankly, I seem to need less sleep -  as though the energy of this vibrant city has somehow made its way into my veins.

Delhi is like nothing I could have ever imagined.

I touched down at DEL around 8 pm Saturday night, rummy from the long flight and bleary eyed due to my protesting, overworked contact lenses.  Despite the haze and a stiff language barrier, I somehow managed to make my way through a gauntlet of finger printing, photos and signatures finally culminating in my very first passport stamp and a green light to enter the country.  After months of trepidation and nearly 24 hours of travel time, I had finally made it to India.

Just outside the airport I was met by Ashwani from Cross Cultural Solutions who instantly put me at
My first introduction to India traffic was...terrifying.
ease with his gentle demeanor. He was well versed in wide eyed travelers and expertly guided me through the sea of brown eyes greeting passengers just outside the terminal, though he did chuckle softly when I tried to get in the wrong side of the car.  Finally with all the grace of a rabid animal we made our way through the unnerving Delhi traffic, which is every bit as chaotic as its reputation has afforded.  Drivers stare straight ahead and make decisions based purely on the sound of honking horns, which are incessant but necessary as a means of communication in an environment moving so fast it is impossible to see every danger. Like the rest of India, personal space is a luxury not often afforded and drivers travel in a fluid river of movement, with every space filled regardless of speed.  Seeing my white knuckles, Ashwani assured me there were "lanes", though we both knew this was a sweet lie meant to ease my Western mind.

These guys take being a courier to a whole new level.
Trucks are often elaborately decorated and all include
the same closely followed  instruction: Blow Horn! 
Typical street view.
Delhi driving is a total free for all populated by packed cars, ancient bicycles, precarious rickshaws and endless taxis.  Motorcycles loaded up with entire families zip through traffic at death defying speeds  - especially considering passengers sit side saddle and seem to hold on by will alone.  One particularly shocking motorcycle held a family of four, including a baby, which gripped the gas tank like a tiny monkey clinging to its mothers fur.  To add to my health care provider neurosis, helmets are uncommon and only required for the driver - though even this regulation is not often followed or enforced. But as shocking as the transit system appears to outside eyes, I've learned the accident rate here is relatively low.  The noisy chaos works here because everyone moves to the same rhythm - and it was surprising to me just how easy it was to be lulled by this city's stride.

Rickshaw - Coming in Hot.
Holy cow (just to keep things interesting).
As a nurse, it made me cringe every time I saw families loaded onto a motorcycle without helmets - including babies.
There is a law that requires the motorcycle driver wear a helmet but even this is not closely followed.
Ashwani dropped me off safe and sound at the Guest House gate and I bid him good night as I traipsed in to meet the 12 strangers sharing this adventure into the unknown.  Soon I would discover Delhi is a city which toes the line between unfathomable grace and utter devastation.  It is a place mired in 7,000 years of ancient baggage and filled to the brim with tradition, dogma, color and sound.  But all this would wait - first on the agenda was sleep.

Market Mayhem 
Crossing the street - frogger style.
India traffic reminds me of a Richard Scary children's book.  Now to find Goldbug.