We decided to venture out into Connaught Place for dinner upon arrival. It was dark by then, so we broke our first rule, which is going out at night. In retrospect, the experience was not as scary as it was culture shock. We learned many things quickly:
- Stray dogs are the stray cats of India. On our trip so far, Meredith has seen 1 cat, but we’ve all seen hundreds of dogs. They walk around the street, eat anything on the ground, sleep in any condition (it’s hard to tell if they are dead or alive), and make up the majority of roadkill.
- Crossing the street involves holding one arm outas if to stop traffic, turning off any sense of sensibility, and walking across traffic. Cars will honk at you and swerve around you, but it’s not like they were in a lane to start, so you’re not ruining anything for them.
- Autorickshaws (three-wheeled taxis) are very common, but nowhere near as annoying as the bicycle rickshaws, which take two seats and weld them onto an old bike frame. These guys will bug the crap out of you, following you along the road, blocking your path trying to get you to take a ride, and will not take no for an answer. We ignored these guys:).
- There is no physical demaracation between the rich and poor. Sure, there are slums (see “Slumdog Millionaire” for seemingly good depictions of this), and sure you don’t see people sleeping right outside a busy restaurant (how could you get any sleep?). But turn the corner from a diamond dealer or tourist trap, and you will see people starting a fire in the street to cook some food they earned/found.
The city center is filled with things that rich white people would like. This is mostly a distraction. We had set out for a dosa place about 1/3 of the way around the circle (Connaught Place is a big circle, maybe 1 km in circumference), but where shocked about halfway there (note that this short walk took 10 minutes), and settled on a recommended Kati Roll (think of a burrito, but with potato, egg, masala, or other tasty things in it) place instead. The ones in NYC are good, but the one in Delhi (Nizzam’s?) is really good! It was also our first experience spending money - 70 Rs (about $1.40) got us a Kati Roll that filled us up in a more ritzy part of town.
We headed back to the hotel, and I saw one of the most striking images of the trip thus far. We saw on the sidewalk near a tree, right next to the loud road with dogs running around it and some homeless adults sitting nearby, a boy (on his own?) curled up in a blanket on the ground. It would be rude to take a picture, and I wish I could better relay the image of a small curled up bundle of cloth with a buzzcut sticking out of the top, sleeping in one of the loudest and dirtiest intersections I have experienced (think Times Square with more smog and less people). It won’t be the last such image I’ll see this trip, but it was the first and most memorable.