Day 1 – June 18, 2008
I have been in Delhi for about 20 hours. Here are my first impressions:
Flying in with my nose to the plexiglass, one of the first things I noticed outside of Delhi were enormous houses that put our McMansions to shame. They looked like they belonged in Beverly Hills. But a second later (at flying speed), the crowded apartments of the middle class began, and structures which appeared at a few thousand feet to be slums.
On the ground, even at seven in the morning, many people were on the streets and, of course, cows. (Its not a unfounded stereotype, cows are everywhere.) Coming home after midnight, there were still many people on the streets, and yes, still cows. A friend from India observed that the one of the strangest things about the U.S. is that you don’t see any people. Now I fully understand the contrast.
I’m staying in one of those middle class apartments with three friends from school and a new friend who lives with them. Judging by the cars and the interior of the apartment, it seems firmly middle class. But from the outside, it far more resembles a slum you would see in the U.S. Yet it’s comfortable and quiet, which is hard to come by in this city.
I went out this evening to a posh garden restaurant/bar. It was beautiful, with wicker lanterns hanging from mango trees and mist sprinklers shooting out from the ground to fight the heat. There were tables that looked like beds surrounded by white gauzy chiffon curtains. A group of men waited outside next to BMWs and other shiny new cars. Good music and good company. A lovely first night out seeing how the well-heeled Indians and many ex-pats enjoy the city.
But once we stepped out of this little rich paradise, the reality of Delhi confronted us as we drove back across town. People sleep everywhere. Literally, I saw dozens sleeping on mats on the medians of the roads. Tent cities appeared here and there. Others just had mats and companions to share them. Stray dogs finally outnumbered the cows.
I can tell already that this trip will eliminate any remaining naivete about poverty and disparity in this world. But I am fairly certain I’ll fall in love with the place. Whatever happens, I’ll keep you updated. So stay tuned. ☺