India: first impressions
7 days in India have been a dive into the unknown. Arriving in the hectic and polluted Delhi with a major jet lag on top of a previously acquired lack of sleep made the challenge of arriving in our first hostel a bit bigger than otherwise.
My thought of the possibility of slightly blending in after ditching the backpack proved to be an illusion. I didn't manage to find an Indian outfit for a reasonable price. But even if I had: I'm too tall! And I might look slightly Indian for a European but not enough to disappear in the crowd in Delhi. Ignoring stares is a sport all women here have to master if they want to keep on feeling sane. It's a good chance to train not to identify so much with your body!
Meeting a friend in the middle of pushy rickshaw drivers, cows, garbage on the streets and somewhat shady figures checking tourists out was a big relief. All the more because he had been visiting Delhi several times before. Fighting the want for sleep we took to the streets to get rid of our jet lag faster.
Main Bazar Road in Paharganj was a colourful collection of cafés and shops selling hippie clothes, music instruments, books and much more. A white cow painted with henna was pulling a car with goods. Bycicle Rickshaws carrying tourists and locals were passing by while the strong smell of things you don't want to know about entered my nose and became a taste in my mouth. Crossing the street. A traffic light is not what you knew about before. The traffic seems to have no rules and the honk has a true purpuse in India. -Later we will discover the thrill of driving in a taxi and how drivers seem to communicate via telepathy. But now we will find out that crossing a street is extreme sport-.I feel like a buffalo on discovery channel. I'm safe when I stay in the group and we move together. But stil beware!
After a while we arrive at a Jain temple. We take off our shoes and enter to see and hear many people praying. Religious stories are depicted along the walls like cartoons. The paintings are small and clear. Next to the temple is a bird hospital that receives many donations of temple visitors. (Jain people believe in non violence against any living thing). We exit the temple and I get to my first attempt of buying clothes. The three of us are guided inside a shop with cushions on the ground (shoes off). Three Indians show me different outfits. The first one is standing at the closet that stretches across the whole length of the back wall of the shop. The second standing in front of me - opposite of the closet - giving the orders to 'frisbee' several packed 3-piece sets his way (Trousers, short dress, scarf). The third one sits next to us on the couch watching approvingly. Sets in many different colours pile up in front of me. "No Thank you, I'm not so fond of pink. You have anything blue?". Nod, frisbee, catch, pile up. Beautiful things but more expansive than clothes I would buy back home. But that's a tricky comparison. Javi reminds me I don't have to buy anything and we start leaving the shop. But not after thanking them and taking two business cards. Two shops further we find a three piece for 10x less (which will later appear to be three pieces of cloth. They still turn out handy, but it's not what I though I was buying).
We make our way through Chandi Chowk. There are piles of fruit, frying streetfood, clothes, spices, jewellery, electronics...virtually everything. What a colourful buzzing lot! The metro takes us back to Paharganj where we eat and make our ways to our different hostels.
Those were the first hours in Delhi.