Thursday, June 19, 2008

Delhi - First Impressions

Delhi, India
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. ☺


Carlos R. Centeno L said...

I love the cow issue. BTW, are there cow magazines? Please Please take photos of the cows and the street... I want to see the contrast.

Scott said...

Actually, I was listening to NPR the other day and there was a very interesting story on about the cows in India. Apparently, they're put there on the street daily by a governmental crew, but recently they've begun dying at a rapid rate. Upon an autopsy, they found the cows were finding little bits of food in plastic bags around the city and eating the whole thing, bag and all, and subsequently starved to death due to a lack of room in their stomachs. This promped a law to be made saying that no plastic bags could be used that were less than ten microns thick, so then the cow would pass them instead of having them linger in their stomachs. Unfortunately, most people don't know how thick a micron actually is, so thinner, cow-killing plastics are still widely used in India.

And that's my India knowledge of the day. Next up: Sports!

Marjorie said...

I know you have been exposed to the reality of poverty and the contrast of money and power in other travels, but I have to say, it is wonderful to hear your ideas and thoughts about the the world- Sustainable Capitalism- that have spawn from your current experiences. I know I was hit in the face with such harsh realizations when I went to Haiti some years ago, and I was brought back there by reading you blogs.
Thank you so much for sharing these amazing moments in India with us.