Please mind the gap

Sep 11, 2007 in

I originally planned to stay just one day in Delhi but I decided to stay a bit longer in this frightening city.
You know, you can’t imagine a developing country if you’ve never been in one. Everything is different, you get an impression on how else a society can (or cannot) work. For example before I arrived, I thought there would be at least some supermarkets around or a real public transportation system. Hahaha, how naive ;-)

The streets here are dirty, traffic lights do not exist and if there are pavements, you can’t walk on them because these are actually the living rooms of other people (as Lena put it) 1, there are just merchants, beggars or sleeping street dogs.
So, you basically share the street with those rickshaws, auto-rickshaws, cars that sound their horn all the time to push forward (like everyone else). the traffic situation is even worsened by all these docile cows that stand on the overcrowded, loud and dirty streets. This often leads to a traffic jam. It’s rush hour all day long. Local busses don’t really halt at bus stops, you just hop on or off while they move slowly or are stuck in a traffic jam :-).

You know, if too get too close to a seller, they will immediately praise their wares and you are pushed to buy something. Hence, the first two words I learned in Hindi were “Nahin” (“No!”) and “Chalo” (“Go away!”). ‘Cause as soon as you start to talk with beggars, sellers, ambitious rickshaw drivers 2, it’s really hard to get rid of them. Especially the child-beggars are stubborn as hell.
There are taunts and thieves, too. Often, it’s just shortchanging or about them claiming to have no change money 3. Bargaining for a rickshaw or taxi ride is standard and it’s standard that it’s overpriced if you don’t bargain at all before you enter. After all, Delhi is not that dangerous, you can protect yourself from most taunts if you keep being friendly but cautious towards strangers and put your valuables somewhere safe. Many Indians are really that curious about you and are just being polite, others life from that. They look up to the western culture.

Delhi has a metro, too. It’s very new and is utterly disturbing me. First, I didn’t realize why, but then it struck me: This place is clean, quiet, it doesn’t smell here 4, no beggars running around, no cattle or street dogs, no sellers, rickshaw drivers and it’s even less crowded here. I was totally reminded of Western cities, clean and modern. It kinda didn’t belong there.
So, everything what Delhi actually is, is stripped off here. Without all this, they just look like people wearing interesting clothes.
This whole thing looks like a try to domesticate Indians to Western standards. Those who planned the metro really thought about how to teach Indians the way to use a metro. They even drew lines on how to exit and how to enter. Well, it doesn’t work, they still enter and exit all at the same time and in no order. I watched a family trying to get on an escalated staircase. It looked like they were doing a stunt or something :-)

1 but without furniture
2 “Where you wanna go? I take you whole city! Wanna go to Connaught Place? Where you …” and so on ;-)
3 after you paid of course
4 Only then when I smelled the absence of smell, I realized that Delhi smells really bad

Main bazar road
Still main bazar road
A typical scene from the street. Actually, it looks like that everywhere, not only at bazar streets.
A cow that is not blocking the traffic.
One photo from the metro station. This is the only photo I could make before one of the soldiers warned me to not take any photos for it is forbidden. The security is ridiculus there.