My first week in Delhi ended on a pretty high note, and started with a somewhat sickly one. Jet lag is very real. Nonetheless, it was action packed. With all the sensory overload that’s been going on in the past 9 days, here are a few of the things that stood out and left a more constant impression. They will be part of the backdrop to all my other experiences here in Delhi, at least for the next 2 months or so.
There’s always a fear when you have to meet a group of strangers for the first time that you aren’t going to hit it off. I think, all things considered, that’s probably not a worry you need to have if you’re off for a study abroad program, particularly one’s that’s so specific like SIT’s India program for the arts. Somewhere down the line, you’ll find things in common. I do have to say though, I’m probably really lucky to be getting along with the other four of our group so well… we’re such a small set (including all the SIT Staff) that by the end of the semester, it’ll be like leaving family.
Quick side note – Over these next few months, it’s safe to say that I’ll experience many, many places to eat and shop, so I think it’ll be best to create separate mini posts with my thoughts on those.
Generally, the heat this time of year in Delhi should be bearable thanks to the buckets of rain that are sure to block up the roads and flood several areas of the city. Unfortunately, weren’t so lucky. With what’s looking to be a late and short monsoon season, Delhi greeted us with her heat on full blast: all the wonders of a scorching sun and humid mornings just for our pleasure. There’s really not much you can do about the heat, but since you probably planned on shopping anyway, I’d suggest bringing only enough with you to tide you over for about two weeks or so, and then splurging on some kurtas and salwars. They’ll at least help a bit. Some of the cheaper ones (75-200 Rs.) are probably not the greatest of quality, but they’ll definitely last you for the duration of your trip. Bright colours and patterns, these are available at every street market you see. You can get your quality take-home stuff later on.
There are of course a million things that’ll invade your senses upon arrival in India. You’ll smell cow shit and tandoori chicken in the same go, taste spices that’ll have steam coming out from your ears and nose, feel the bumpy the roads go slippery with the rain, and see just about everything you thought you would and then more. The first thing to get through to your brain in all this chaos of sensory details will be the sounds.
From the clink of chai glasses at every street corner punctuated with intermitten barking and cawing to the spurts of music ranging old hits by Kishore Kumar to the latest Bollywood tunes and even some Rhianna here and there. But most evident of all of these is probably going to be all the honking.
For those of you from NYC or any other big, crowded city, honking is nothing new, and hardly something worth mentioning. But it’s a bit different. This isn’t the same angry, “Get out of my way” kind of honking. In most cases, it’s more like, “Hey, I’m about a centimeter away from hitting you so maybe you want to try and move?” So you know, chances are you’ll be bumped into anyway, but I haven’t really seen anyone make a fuss about minor hits or anything yet. There have also been some hilarious moments where cars or trucks honk their way through semi empty streets – in this case, its more a confirmation of being alive it seems. People will tell you that driving is a nightmare in India, but if all you have to do is sit in the car, it’s more like a roller coaster and thriller movie mixed into one as you watch the rickshaws, scooters, pedestrians, cars, and animals all make their way on the same street.
I figured I’d see many animals here, but somehow, I didn’t expect to see so many peacocks. Beautiful creatures they are, really, but not the nicest sounding. I had the pleasure of not just seeing many peacocks around the Aurobindo Ashram, but also hearing them every morning there and where I’m staying right now. If you can imagine what a cat and bird would sound like if they were one animal, and perhaps take it up a few notches in pitch, you’re pretty close. That said, they are really magnificent creatures.
Chai and Coffee.
The staples of the Indian diet. You’ll find it just about anywhere with chai in majority in the north, and coffee ruling over the south. Both will be in either part of India though so be sure to have glass of chai or coffee, and a biscuit with it if there’s some there.