Saturday 8 March 2014

Delhi, India: March 2014

Delhi, March, 2014, Beauty, Decay, reflection

I have spent the last couple of days in India and more precisely in Delhi. For tourists Delhi is usually a point of entrance before going somewhere else in India and usually to locations that are less crowded and generally considered to be more beautiful than Delhi. Because to be honest Delhi is more the beast of India.

The first ting that hit you when you enter India is the smell in the airport. That smell is simply the odour of India for good and bad. It contains spices, it contains curry, it is a heavy musk smell, it contains strongly concentrated urine and a hint of garbage is also in there. The first time I smelled it I was blowing air out of my noise a couple of times and this time it was more like "Ah... I am back in India again!"

The same was true for the cultural chock. Last time I had one because seeing poor families with children living on the streets among garbage is hard to comprehend and this time I have strangely enough accepted that it is the way of India and Delhi for good and bad and I had no cultural chock.

The first thing I did was to take a cab to my Hotel. I was running a little late so I tried to push the cab driver to bring me there faster but in the end he did a good job, luckily for me the traffic was not very heavy due to the early morning so I reached my hotel in around 45 minutes. Unfortunately I did not have the real address to the hotel which caused some issues so if you go there please make sure to have that with you. A second thing is to always run on the taxi-meter and mentioned that you have been several times in Delhi before since this makes them scared of driving too long detours with you. He wanted a fixed price from me of 2000 rupees which I declined and well so because with meter it was 900 rupees. My additional problem was that I only had 1400 rupees on me so I did keep a close eye on the meter.

During this ride I saw massive construction work for subway / metro. Since ten years or so they have had metro and it is well used. Unfortunately it needs to be further expanded and they are currently working on that so thumbs up for that one! The metro has besides from improve the transportation and the speed of transportation for people also made it much saver for women to travel in Delhi so there are only benefits. Only problem would be that it stops running fairly early in the evening around 22 o'clock or so.

Once at the hotel I quickly got my room and went upstairs to unpack, take a shower and to put on a suit and go to the conference. I directly discovered two things that I did not like. There was no tea cup for me but a lot of tea and sugar that was then also useless to me. In Delhi I would never drink anything unless it comes from a unopened, non-cooled, mineral water bottle or it has been boiled. The second thing was that upon taking my shower there was no shower head. Meaning I got a nice stream of hot water that wastes too much water for little purpose.

So when I walked out of the hotel I told them that they had to sort out those two things before I returned to the hotel. I never like to do this but I am afraid that it is a must in India. If you are unhappy with something you need to tell them directly and they will change it with accuracy and speed. If you do not then nothing will happen and this goes for anything from no shower head in the toilet to there being no more omelette on the breakfast table in the morning. Directly complain!

When I am moving around alone in Delhi I have found that it works out the best when I dress up in a Kurta / Sherwana, put a hat on my head and wear sunglasses. In the streets they seem to have trouble to figure out what I am and they therefore tend to leave me completely alone. No one grabs me to make me take a rickshaw ride, no one tries to sell something to me unless I really do stop for a longer time and are looking around. Sometimes even then they are scared to start talking to me which sometimes can be inconvenient but much less so in comparison to them looking about me as a lone tourist up for grabs.

I bought many things when I was there and satin is being sold at a very reasonable price in comparison to silk and I find it good enough for many purposes. So I think that I bought around 25 meters of that. I bought Indian sweets from the most famous store in Delhi called Haldiram. Many of the sweets have a thin film of silver on top of it in India which might be useful for your stomach if you stay longer in Delhi.

I also found a perfume store which I did not know existed when I was there the last time before because then I would have assaulted in directly. Make sure to decide upon your own essences because the smell that an Indian person likes is far from what we in Europe prefer. The same goes for jewellery that in India is a lot of bling, bling, bling when we prefer clean and simple as well as for cloths that they always want to have shiny bling things on. With the perfume I bought a big bottle of the extracted essences and the price was 100 rupees for 10 mL.

An expensive perfume contains around 35% of essence. Eau du toilette that I personally usually use contains around 4-8% of essence and I pay for a 125 mL bottle around 50 euro so recalculated that becomes (using 6%) 6.7 euro per mL essence for my eau de toilette versus 0.12 euro per mL in India. Not a bad deal at all and the smell is mine for good and bad. The store owner (family owned store since many generations) did however like it very much and even called out his son to smell it.

One way or the other I will now try to make my own perfume of it because it is not so convenient to use the pure thing without a spray.

I also bought a lot of dried black pepper. I tried to explain to the guy that I wanted 250 grams which already is a lot of pepper but in the end I used common language mixing verbal with physical saying half a kilo and cutting my hand in half with my palms and got 0.5 kg of black pepper. It might not sound a lot but it is indeed a big, big bag!

One night I ended up in long discussion with a couple of Professors about India and it is interesting to see how they follow the same trend as the rest of the world. The highly educated people have not more than 1 to 2 children that they are trying to take care of as good as possible in comparison to the thoughts in the Indian country side that is still to have as many children as possible so that they can support you when you are old. Generally India is significantly pushing education and health and the progress is massive even if one accounts for all the issues they have with corruption etc.

India has a bright future ahead of it and I hope that I will be able to continue to go there around once per year to see this very development in front of my own eyes so I wish all the best for India and I take off my hat for all that they have accomplished and all that they will accomplish in the future!


Anonymous said...

Hello! I´ll write this in English even though i think we speak the same language (Swedish).

I enjoyed the summary of the Indian-smell! I remember it from my vacation in Goa a couple of years ago. We spent some time in a more posh hotel with servants all dressed in white and the remained of the time in a 500 Rupees / night "bungalow" or whatever they might have called it.

The one thing that stood out the most was the burning of all their garbage. Everything was burnt on their backyards, plastic, food, metal cans everything was set ablaze with the toxic fumes as a result... Interesting!

India has _a lot_ of potential, but after having spent some time in the countryside (Goa is a big place) the lack of.. Thinking? Is rather apparent. The waste and corruption is huge. Construction projects are almost always half-assed and it will take a rather long time before there is any kind of western industrialization going on on a larger scale. I´ve never been in Dehli and i understand tha t things are different there.

Anyway, i like your blog! Keep it up!

Fredrik von Oberhausen said...

Thanks for you comment and thanks for writing in English!

Next time I go to India I will definitely leave Delhi and try to see a location that is more well known for its beauty such as Jaipur or some other location closer to the ocean.

Personally I have never seen them burning the trash like you say but I have seen large heaps of trash in Delhi with little children playing around it. :(

They do indeed have a large potential and the starting point in my eyes was when they made themselves self-sufficient in terms of food production. Imagine how much they will be able to export in 10 to 20 years with slightly better treatment of the soil and education in how to handle the soil well.

Like you say I also do believe that it will take time but the time will come for sure during my life-time.

Anonymous said...

lucky you ! you don't have to stay in Delhi for long and yes they burn their garbage though i didn't see them doing that but i can smell it in the air every night :( :(