I was thinking before I started my two plane travels to New Delhi of all the different rumors and murmurs you hear about India: That people respond so strongly, that it provokes and makes visitors think. I’m still in a fog of jetlag and Ambien, having gone to bed at 4am last night, but I have some general impressions.
I burst the tourist bubble: The hotel insists on making me take BMWs everywhere (my hotel bill will blow socks off). On the advice of a local colleague, I burst through the BMW bubble–while I was not allowed a taxi, and had to be white glove driven to Khan Market, I did pull off a low-rent return to base on my own terms. I took a three-wheeled auto rickshaw back to the hotel. Daring, dangerous, no seatbelts, vehicle of Chinese (i think) construction! Driver whose hands were covered in? Unknown. Driver with desperate eyes, but friendly conversation. The insistence I take his number in case I want a tour of the people’s Delhi. He disapproved of the places I had done some shopping, too expensive, locals would not go there.
Many staff, one Sylvie: There are many staff. They are all quite specialists. It is unclear to me the difference between each specialist staff member’s role, but some only provide fruit, other appear to give pistachio sweets at night, others dust (even my stuff on the counter), and others straighten the bed. I will go bankrupt trying to tip the lot, so I have given up.
There are greeters, those who xray your stuff, those who body scan you, those who open doors, those who join hands to say Namaste, and then all the others, function unknown, but readily available. Two charming ladies, or was it three total, were involved in my getting a cup of tea outside. It’s a bit overwhelming, this level of care of details.
Temptation abounds: Many beautiful things to buy.
Sensory overload. When I came into my hotel room last night, there were two men, the tv was on, a welcome beverage was handed to me, someone had just put a welcoming bindhi on my forehead, I had a jasmine necklace around my neck, I was asked to sign here and here, and then got a 30 minute lecture on how to operate my room’s many controls. It’s sights, scents, sounds unending.
Random animals. There are unsupervised life forms of all stripes lying about. Dogs sleeping in market corridors, no sign of owners. Life abounds.
Acrid odors. It smells like burning plastic, similar to burning a milk carton.
Poverty. Apparently I was directed to a fairly fancy market (mostly tourists). The fancy market did not look fancy to me–except for the immaculate L’Occitane storefront. Also, crumbling pink concrete buildings were pointed out to me as government housing, apparently this was high end housing, and being a government employee is a high status occupation. I think back to Philly municipal employees. It’s all very interesting.
Relaxed movement. Much like Rio, people kind of jaunt or saunter when they walk about. There doesn’t seem to be a rushed setting, the way I found in Hong Kong.
Friendly Kindness. As I went about shopping, I really didn’t know if I was being treated kindly or being robbed blind. I tried to engage the local women for their opinion and they were quite sweet, friendly and helpful. The shopkeepers also are nice and very respectful and have an elegant dignity about them. But I can’t help but feel that I have gold and platinum dollar signs blazing above my head when they look at me.
Ironies. When I had tea, the tea was a California brand, Forte. It’s good tea, but I sometimes drink it in Philadelphia, and I certainly didn’t come to Delhi for California brand tea.