“Our first day in Delhi was full of shocks. We’ve been to other big cities in Asia before, but we’d never seen anywhere with so much dirt, stench, smog and chaotic traffic. When we saw kids in rags rummaging in the pile of trash across the street, it brought to mind the movie Slumdog Millionaire. By the second day we had begun to acclimatize, and could move almost normally in the street crowd, but it was only after we had returned home that we were able to process the complicated experience called ‘India.’
In Delhi itself, we didn’t like any of the famous monuments as much as a temple built just a few years ago, the Swaminarayan Akshardham, which is full of breathtaking sculptural masterpieces. We also toured the old town, both on foot and by rickshaw, which was an unforgettable experience!”
“Indians generally consider Delhi the most beautiful of India’s megacities, but while I found Delhi exciting, I wouldn’t say it’s particularly beautiful. Most of the buildings are – in large part because of the city’s catastrophic air quality – in a very bad, run-down state, and that goes for the modern ones as well. There’s hardly anywhere in the city that’s suitable for a pleasant stroll. I mean, there are parks and green spaces, but hardly any city streets suitable for normal pedestrian walking.
The huge crowds of people are interesting at first, but quickly become exhausting. Dirt and chaos are the norm in Delhi.
Indians are direct with one another, but more cautious when dealing with foreigners.
“The culture shock of culture shocks. They spit, slurp, and literally belch in your face. No room for daintiness here.
If a line forms for something, the strongest and loudest wins. As a pedestrian you are invisible, and crossing the road is a serious test of courage. Haggling is absolutely indispensable. Don’t be bashful.
Actually, the hardest to deal with are the pushy, shameless street vendors and taxi drivers.
On the basis of what I had read, I was prepared for a lot of beggars, but the taxi drivers, tuk-tuk cowboys and street vendors were what really got on our nerves. Still, we always managed to smile and say a polite “no, thank you,” even to the hundredth attempt. Maybe that’s why we got so tired so quickly.
Our naivety and good faith – and thus also our wallets – were sorely tested, and we gradually came to realize that not everyone is as they seem. Even the seemingly helpful pedestrian who listens sympathetically and wants to give us some advice while he walks with us for a few minutes, is probably actually just trying to get some money.
As positive experiences, I’d definitely list the main sights of Delhi and the National Museum.
“The first place I have to mention is Chandi Chowk, the almost four-hundred-year-old market in Old Delhi. Now that I try to write it down, I realize I have no idea how to describe it. Though by no means either the best or worst Delhi experience, it may be the most memorable.
Sunday was not the best day to visit Old Delhi, since most of the shops were closed, but at least it was market day. I will never, ever forget it. We arrived by taxi, and I swear it was like stepping straight out into the front row of a large theater in the middle of a performance. Like being dropped into the middle of a full-house show.
It sounds like baroque melodrama, but after Old Delhi we were in ruins. The city chewed us up and spat us out. We’re not usually the sort to spend ten hours at a stretch, walking in a big city, or happily getting into long conversations with locals, or eating our lunch while sitting at the side of the road.
We were insecure, tired, and constantly hungry, since at first it was very hard to find food we were confident wouldn’t make us sick.
Still, as we began to get used to the place and the hours passed, fear and negativity disappeared, to be replaced with pleasure, gratitude and laughter.