Where: Delhi, YMCA Local time: 6:00p Chicago time: 6:30a
Oh my God. So far my trip to India has been absolutely amazing, and I’m not even done with my second day…
Yesterday was our first full day here. We got in the night before at like 1a after our flight had been delayed an hour departing from Amsterdam. That flight was way better than the first. My first impression of Delhi was familiar, but at the same time foreign. All the signs were in English and Hindi, and there was classical violin music playing in the airport terminals. I recognized that everyone was talking Hindi, but I can’t understand a word everyone’s saying. We changed our money at the currency exchange at the airport, which was just a dude in a freestanding booth. Then hopped on the bus to the YMCA.
The roads in Delhi are crazy. Over the past two days there have been so many things that have told me that India is completely chaotic, but somehow, everything still seems to work… There are lane markings, but no one follows them. Motorcycles are weaving in and out of traffics. Auto rikshas are weaving in and out of traffic. Cars are weaving in and out of traffic. Trucks and buses are weaving in out of traffic. It’s totally nuts. Over and above that, since the sidewalks are filled with either piles and piles of crap or street merchants, pedestrians are walking on the streets. Plus, every now and then, a street merchant will set up shop right on the road. So the streets are completely crazy compared to America, where things are completely orderly, i.e., everyone stays in the their lane, signals for a lane change, usually, etc. The sides of the roads that aren’t sidewalks are just brown dirt, with occasional piles of trash. There’s generally not any grass on the side of the road. So when Dhruba told me before I left ‘I’m about to set foot on the soil of the motherland,’ he was being literal. My bad.
We got to the YMCA at about 2a, and crashed right away. I slept like a log, and woke up in the exact same position I fell asleep in at about 7a, 45 minutes before the alarm I set off on my cell phone. So I got up and started the water heater. In our rooms, we each have our own individual water heaters for the showers that take about 30 minutes to warm up. So I started the water heater, then called my guruji who was in Delhi and planning on leaving that evening, so I wanted to hook up with him, take his darshan, and hopefully go with him to pick me up a sitar. He was in a meeting all day, so that ended up not happening. But he hooked me up with the number of sitar maker in Delhi that makes good quality stuff, so I’ll be hookin that up.
After I showered and washed up, I walked over to the Hanuman temple that’s about 3 blocks away. I went by myself, and it was like my first real experience of seeing Delhi. I knew it was close to where were staying, but I didn’t know exactly where it was, so I got directions from the guy at the front desk of the Y, then direction from another dude on the street, then another dude, then went to another mandir (temple) and got directions from them. Anyway, I eventually made it there, and it was nice. They had different little rooms devoted to different Gods kind of scattered in no particular order, which again is a testament to the choatic mentality here in India since in America mandirs have distinctly defined spaces for each murti (statue of God) that are well labeled, etc. But it was nice; it felt good going to the temple as the first thing I did in India. On the walk there, I saw people that looked like they were homeless chillin on the sidewalk everywhere. None of them were begging, they were talking to each other, talking to riksha drivers, cooking breakfast on a fire they made on the sidewalk, and just chillin. There were also dogs everywhere, just scavenging the sidewalks for food.
I got back and had breakfast with the group. I didn’t think I was going to wake up, so I told the girls across the hall to wake me up at 7:45a. I ended up being out the door by 8a, and I left a not in the key hole of the door (since all the keys here are totally oldschool keys like in Bugs Bunny cartoons), and I took the note out when I left. Apperently, they started trying to wake me up after I left, so they were pounding on the door, calling my room, and everyone in our group seemed to know that they were trying to wake my up, and I wasn’t even there! So when I got back from the mandir and sat down for breakfast, everyone thought I had just woken up… So that was funny.
After breakfast, we hopped in the bus and did some sightseeing. We saw India Gate, and wen to the Bengali market, which is a section of town that just has a bunch of shops. I got some dried indian snacks, like the kind my buddy Sachin at work is always bringing in. I got this big bag of it that will probably last my the rest of the trip. Hell yea. I also got a phone card so I could call home, and a 20 pack of batteries, which I later realized were a bunch of funk batteries cause they’ve been dying on me within hours, laaaaaaaaame. Afterwards, we visited the tomb of an old Mughal king, which was really nice. It’s architecture looked a lot like the Taj Mahal, but it was made in all red stone and stuff, and there was this big garden surrounding it, so it was really nice. Then we had lunch at a cultural center, and went to he Lodi Gardens, which again was the tomb of an old pre-Mughal king. There we met Sunny and Meeta, two people who our professors have been working closely with in setting up our work with Non-Government Organizations (NGOs). They gave us a history of NGOs in India, how they go started, how they work in society socially and politically. That was pretty interesting.
Then we came back, had dinner, and a few of us when walking to look for an internet café, and that failed miserably because it was election day here in Delhi, and that means it was a state holiday. That means all the stores are closed and no one goes to work. That’s really cool, cause it really encourages people to be involved in politics, even though it completely corrupted… But we got to walk the streets a little, that was awesome. All day whenever we go out, we always get approached by kids begging for money. All they know how to say is ‘hello’ and ‘money’ and they are completely relentless. But its like they not even begging for money, they’re begging for some type of acknowledgment that they actually exist in my world. Like, some kids never paid any attention to me until I made I eye contact with them. Once that happened, that was like a way of me telling them that I acknowledge them as being a person, and since they don’t get that from anywhere else, and they just latch on to you and follow you and beg for money. So this kid kept following my and pulling on my shirt and stuff, so I eventually said sternly ‘paisa nati, ja, ja, ja!’ which means ‘I have no money, go, go, go!’ He went away. Which means he stopped ‘bothering’ me, but what the hell is that worth? He’s still out there…
After not finding a single café the was opening except one down a dark doorway that looked REALLY shady, which we decided against, we came back and I was so tired and jetlagged at the point, which was 8p, that I just crashed…
I woke up this morning, our second day here, and I did the same as yesterday, showered and cleaned up, went to he Hanuman Mandir, and had breakfast. But today was our first day working. And oh my god, today was such an amazing experience. I have to get back to the group right now though, so I’ll get back later tonight and talk about it. But I am so excited about working with this organization for the next two weeks. It’s going to be absolutely amazing. I’m moved, I’ll tell you all about it soon!