I arrived in Delhi at 10:45 PM. I cleared immigration and customs and exited into the airport and there was no Sanford! How could this be? I wandered around hoping he might be waiting in the wrong spot but he was nowhere to be seen. First time he wasn’t there in all the years we have been meeting in various places around the world. What could have happened? I pulled out my laptop and was trying to connect to the airport wifi when suddenly a man dressed in camouflage fatigues and carrying a rifle approached me. He didn’t speak any English and I was having trouble understanding what he wanted. He was motioning me to put away my computer, or at least I think that’s what he wanted. I had seen other people use computers so I didn’t think I had done anything wrong. I put it away and just stood there. Then he motioned me to follow him. Oh no!! I’ve just arrived, can’t contact Sanford and I’m being taken away by this soldier, can it get any worse? He led me out of the airport and……into the waiting arms of Sanford!!
Turns out you had to exit the airport and that’s where people were waiting. I didn’t realize that because there were people waiting in the airport so I don’t know how some people could come in and others not. Sanford had seen me from outside and had tried to enter but the solder wouldn’t allow him in. It had taken several minutes of Sanford pleading before that soldier reluctantly agreed to come in and retrieve me.
Sanford and I got on a bus and travelled downtown to the bus station and then it was a short 20-minute walk to Major Den’s Hostal. Yes, the walls are just cleanish, which is putting them in a good light and no, there is no window. It is quite run down but it is adequate. It is essentially a room with a bed and two small tables and has an attached bathroom. The bathroom is a toilet, sink and shower. There is no shower stall, the whole bathroom is the shower area and there is a drain on the floor. Like many South Asian countries you can’t put toilet paper down the toilet so there is a garbage can just outside the bathroom for that purpose. Sanford spends a few minutes explaining the various issues with the room and how to handle them. The toilet leaks so we keep the water to the toilet turned off and when the bowl is empty turn it on till the water level comes up. There is another set of instructions on how to work the shower taps so the whole bathroom doesn’t get soaked. Oh, did I mention, there is no hot water for showers. This room is $10 a night.
Although the bed is quite thin and hard I slept really well. My first day here is spent walking around our area. India reminds me of Cambodia. Organized mayhem on the streets with oxen carts, bicycle driven rickshaws, motorized three wheel tuktuks, motorcycles, bicycles, horses, monkeys, feral dogs, cows and lots of pedestrians all jockeying for space to move about on the congested streets. There is the constant blare of horns from the motorized vehicles trying to get through the chaos faster and everywhere are the voices of the shop vendors selling their wares that line every inch of space on both sides of the narrow streets.
I actually enjoy the atmosphere and feel quite comfortable. To be honest I had expected so much worse that I was relieved it was not as bad as I had envisioned. When we were on the bus last night I did notice there were many homeless people sleeping under covers on the sidewalks and many, many dogs all over. During the daytime, I see almost no one begging for money and the dogs seem to be fed, as I see no ribs sticking out. My other surprise was I was told beforehand that India would just reek of stench but I found the opposite. I really like the smells of the incense burning and the aroma of the spices cooking that fill the streets. The smell only gets a little vile around the numerous public urinals located on the busy streets. Not sure where woman have to pee, luckily have not needed a toilet while out.
We ate at a different food stall for breakfast, lunch and supper. Sanford who loves
to eat in different places all the time says he uses a different rule when in India. If he eats in a place and doesn’t get sick, he will keep going back to that same food stall throughout his time in one place. So he was a regular at all places we ate.
Talking about food, my intention is to not abandon all my good habits while I’m here but they do have to be adjusted to the food that is available. Sanford and I discussed even before the first meal how I would like to manage my food. There is little in the way of salad here and I’m not so sure I would trust them anyways so I will be eating mostly cooked foods. Plates are heavily loaded with carbs and although I will eat some I don’t want the volume that is given to me. Sanford is a carb man so he agreed that I can decide what my portion will be and give whatever I don’t want to his plate. We will add to what we have for meals with fruit we buy on the street but it has to be something that can be peeled and so we are indulging in oranges and bananas. There are snacks that are available and about the only one I might like once in awhile is some nuts but have requested they be purchased only occasionally and in small quantities. I recently gave up caffeine and everywhere you look is chai tea cooking in big pots and people sipping coffee. I have tried to order hot water but I just get blank stares and I don’t think there is any other option for something hot to drink. I’m not a soft drink person, so I’m just having water. Water that we bring ourselves to the restaurant because we know it is clean.
The last thing I want to say, which I think will be a surprise is that it is cold here!! It’s not that it is hovering around zero, I think it is in the high teens during the day and a little cooler in the evening, but there is no relief from that temperature. The hostal has no heat, there is no hot water for showers, and there is nothing hot for me to drink. My nose is cold most of the time and I hate that. Lucky for me I did bring my merino wool longjohns with me, thinking I would need them in Australia, and they are saving me!!
That’s my first impressions, tomorrow we are taking two city tours, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and then later in the evening getting on a train to go to Shimla where the temperature is supposed to be even colder than in Delhi! I’m wishing I brought my winter coat with me…..