Delhi was a whirlwind weekend. I’m not sure where to begin or where this will end but here we go…
Delhi, like Mumbai is a city that overtakes your senses, 20 million people strong. As we drove from the airport to our hotel, there were immediate differences that we couldn’t help but compare the 2. First and foremost, Delhi has a planned infrastructure of roads, streetlights, sidewalks, parks, metro-line that all work together as a system. We were not surprised, as it is the capital city. But what did surprise us was the large population of homeless children, women, men…families living on the streets. I’m not sure if this is a factor, but Delhi has seen extreme growth & building over the past decade and my assumption is that slums have been destroyed, displacing a large population thus resulting in a large number of homeless. The homeless population gives Delhi a different experience and stronger sense of have/have not’s – which I haven’t felt as much in Mumbai. Granted the majority of my time in Mumbai has not been in the tourist areas – which will bring out the best & worst of any city.
Our drive to the Taj Mahal put us into a new landscape of India, semi-farmland and country towns (each with populations of at least a million). The drive takes about 4.5 hours (1-way) and thankfully toll roads have been built within the last few years…but the autobahn they are not. It’s still a slow drive through towns and roadways with trucks taking full loads to Kolkata, auto rickshaws packed beyond belief, tractors/ horses/ camels/ water buffalo pulling full loads – it’s truly a drive I’ll never forget.
Since we left at 5am in order to beat the heat of the day (it was about 110 degrees), we saw the morning rituals of many residents. Living conditions are sparse (to say the least) and nothing like you can imagine — we saw on many occasion men & children squatting in the fields for their morning relief, hoses and water buckets are used as makeshift showers, people sleeping under tarps along the road – it was a typical day in the life along the road between Delhi and Agra.
The summer months are definitely off-season with temperatures reaching 110+ degrees. Though it was hot, the crowds were less and made it much easier to maneuver through the sites. India and its’ people are gracious hosts to their foreign visitors. We found on occasion there was a “Foreigner” and “India-local” lines to get tickets at historic monuments and the Taj Mahal even had a separate garden pathway. All this set-up with the intention of making a foreigners experience in India more pleasurable.
As the new white couple in the ‘hood, we’ve had our share of stares within our Mumbai neighborhood and have gotten used to it. I believe for the most part it’s curiosity and most people smile in return. However on this trip, the stares where taken to the next level. A few women & children asked to have their picture taken with me. It’s a very odd feeling but India is a country of Indians – it’s rare to see other races and I’m very humbled by the experience.