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First Blog Entry

Posted By John Scott on 02 Jul 2010
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John Scott

Hello everyone, sorry it has taken me so long to get this done but things seem to be happening faster than I can find time to write about At this point I am just three weeks in and will attempt to relay most of the things that have happened so far.

I arrived in Delhi slightly later than expected due to our airplane getting a punctured tire on Heathrow runway. We were stuck on the ground for two hours at which point I could tell that some of the passengers were very willing to go out and to change the tire themselves. Eventually we managed to take off and I settled into a combination of restless sleep and watching a repeats of the same children's movies. Three incarnations of Alice and Wonderland later and I finally arrived in New Delhi at 01.00 and thoroughly shattered.

After a bit of a mix up I met with my driver at around 04.30 and had my first experience of Indian driving. One of the first things he told me after getting into the car was, 'if you can drive in Delhi you can drive anywhere in the world.' I both agree and disagree with this statement. I would agree because you have to develop a reaction time that would rival a cat to survive the traffic here. But I would disagree due to my experience so far of Indian traffic etiquette. It is non-existent. Road markings, red lights and the concept of driving on the left hand side of the road seem to be loose suggestions to the people of New Delhi. They have instead unanimously decided to take part in a never ending citywide game of chicken between pedestrians, cyclists, mopeds, autos, cars, vans, lorries, buses and on one occasion a camel.

Car horns have many different meanings from the most common short sharp blast meaning 'Oi, you nearly crashed into me there' to the more rare long and loud blast while approaching a busy crossroad which means, 'I am going to accelerate towards this crossroad and will not stop for anyone even if it means certain death.'

You generally come across two different types of taxi or auto drivers. The super friendly or the silent staring types. My driver fell into the first category, he wanted to know absolutely everything about me and also wanted to tell me everything about himself so that at times he kept eye contact with me for, considering what has been already said about Indian traffic, a heart-stopping amount of time. I have since learned to appreciate the delicate dance that these drivers perform daily it is all part of the experience and I in fact find it invigorating.

Traveling around Delhi is surprisingly easy, all you need to know is the address or name of where you are going and how much it should roughly cost for a ride there. Then you simply hail an "auto" the most common form of transport in the city which is a lovechild between a motorized rickshaw and a climbing frame. The driver will stop frequently to ask locals which direction to go and will usually be answered by a stream of directions of which two or one are followed before he stops to ask another. On occasion they need not even stop, they will match the speed of another auto driver to ask them which way it is. At which point you will hear a concert of horns from the aggravated drivers behind as two lanes are blocked off and the weaving steam of motor bikes are stopped from meandering by in their usual manner.

Anyway, we made it alive and well to the hotel which I was to stay at for the first two nights. The next morning I was awoken by my roommate for the next two months Tom Welford. Together we decided to spend our first day immersing ourselves in Indian culture by going to a fairly Westernized mall, getting a domino's pizza and watching a Hollywood movie. Okay so admittedly not the most productive first day.

Our second day was a little more compelling though. We went to Qutab Minar which was 20 mins walk from where we were staying. It was easy enough to find the way there as it is the tallest building in the area so we just followed roads that seemed like they were heading towards it. It a pretty impressive site to walk around although we were assured by some people we got talking to that a plane had crashed into the top of it and it is now shorter than it should be, my subsequent google search about this fact have been fruitless but I would like to think it is true.

It is quite strange that the only other western people that you generally meet in India are in these tourist locations and this seems to be a certain novelty for some of the locals who see these places as "tourist zoos" and try to get a picture of all their family members with any westerner they see.

The walk to Qutab Minar was my first experience as a pedestrian in Delhi and I have to say you really have to have your wits about you. Not only are you the most squishy member in the aforementioned game of chicken but also the government has hired several battalions of manic pick-axe wielding workers to demolish pavements and dig trenches in inappropriate places. I was confused by this at first and have asked a few different people about what is going on. They say that the government is preparing the city for the commonwealth games and that everything will be fixed up again in a months time. All of them seem skeptical though and I don't blame them as the manic miners seem to still be hacking away at the streets and I have not seen many of their holes filled in yet. It will be fascinating to see if they manage their task in the time that I spend here.

We caught an auto from here and went to meet with Sowmya(our in country coordinator) and went to meet our "mum" Kativa in her home which we are now staying. She insists that we treat her like she was our own mother and that we should be as comfortable as possible. She is brilliant if a little doting(but what kind of mother isn't) and ensures we are kept well fed, watered and just generally content. Our home help Ajay is also an amusing character, he speaks very little English so communication between us is a combination of exaggerated hand gestures and pointing as well as using the few words which we both understand. Trying to explain the concept of "when" is much harder than you may expect.

This is all I have time to write for now as I am headed towards a live music bar called "at live" in an hour but I will update again soon about my time spent in the hospital and maybe the trip to Jaipur as well.

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