Musings on Contemporary Waffle
Got back the day before yesterday.
With a 9-hour overnight layover in the Dubai airport, the return home will take a while to overcome, but going to India will stay with me forever, a thing that was waiting to happen and that finally did.
India is just not like anywhere I’ve ever been before. It challenges your assumptions about what is normal and important within an ordinary life.
Delhi is a banquet for the senses disorienting you and exhausting you by the end of each day. There is little that’s pretty about Delhi — except the people, their smiles, and the glorious food. European and North American cities can seem utterly stagnant and laughably self-important after experiencing the life and energy of Delhi.
Daily rituals like driving (impossible for a foreigner), shopping (there are no Dubai Malls!) — even walking — need to be re-learned. Honks from a car horn in North America can lead to a fight, while in India they are calmly accepted as essential to survival on the roads.
Cars move like fish around other cars asserting their right of way by some mysterious intuition rather than by any rules of the road that I am aware of. Three-wheeled yellow-and-green auto rickshaws dominate in their numbers but can only give way to most other motorized vehicles. Bicycles, pedestrians, trucks, motorcycles, cars, rickshaws, and animal-drawn carts all share the roads with impressive equanimity.
Quite sensibly there are no baby carriages.
And, equally sensibly, everyone respects the traffic lights.
The people are courteous, humble, and like to laugh, especially at themselves. And they love to talk. They are not shy around other people. When you live in a country of 1,000,000,000 other souls, you learn to get along, I suppose, for the most part. While people living on the street are ignored, closest family is lavished with attention.
A constant fascination are, of course, the women, in their saris and in their strange beauty; their dark eyes against brown skin. The saris come in the most intriguing colours — orange, purple, green, turquoise, chili-pepper red, and a yellow the colour of turmeric. I can only envy the ordinary Indian man.
People speak quietly but the streets are full of noise and movement. There is constant movement. And it is impossible to walk anywhere in a straight line. There are too many people and every kind of vehicle in your way. Nothing is straight in the geometric sense that might resonate with a westerner. Those who notice when a picture on a wall is slightly out of level will be disoriented the most. A straight line seems somehow deathly boring to an Indian.
The only thing that seems to interest anyone are human relationships, which are never straightforward (this is clear even from the view of a foreigner looking from the outside in). While buildings are not kept up, roads and sidewalks are not repaired, paint is not re-newed, and metal is left to rust, relationships are attended to in their innumerable usefulness and necessity.
Despite the condition of inanimate structures, windows are washed and people’s clothes are pressed and are spotlessly clean. See the picture of the makeshift dwelling that I thought was a pile of rubble and old metal. Not only did people live in that, but they had installed a clothes line on which to dry their washing.
I wanted to show here the variety of things that I saw in and around Delhi. Much of it is encapsulated in the mere three minutes of a video I took along the way from Delhi to Agra, on the way to see the Taj Mahal. Captured is the rhythm of life — the dogs and the donkeys, the rickshaws and the motorbikes, the buildings and the bricks, and the noise, movement, and colour — of a fascinating place.
And, of course, there were the monkeys. They show up, too (seen in the video between the 2:08 and 2:12 mark). Why was I surprised?
More scenes from Delhi and Agra (© all images and video copyright tinypriest.com)
Road-sharing in action: Taking a regional road from Delhi to Agra as the driver plays calming music and speaks to a friend on his mobile phone (hands-free).
The girl in the purple sari riding side-saddle on the back of the motorbike first appears at 1:17.
The monkeys show up between 2:08 – 2:12.