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Delhi, Day One

December 30, 2009 2 comments

Had a pretty overwhelming, yet all around fantastic first day in Delhi.

Walked the streets of Lajpat Nagar. Grabbed a cell phone in Lajpat’s Central Market–quite an experience. Took a few “toot-toot” rides (toot-toots are the green and yellow three-wheelers). And sat down for an excellent meal at Swagath, a northern Indian restaurant in the Defence Colony neighborhood.

Not much else to report back at the moment, but I was able to snap some photos. A few are below. Make sure to check out the rest on my Flickr photostream.

Tomorrow, the apartment hunt begins.

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Welcome to India! Now that will be 150 Rupees.

December 29, 2009 2 comments

To paraphrase a fellow New Jerseyan, “Greetings from New Delhi.”

It’s just past midnight on Tuesday (Delhi time). I’ve been traveling since Sunday evening, so this is going to be a short inaugural post, but there have already been some hysterical moments that I wanted to share.

Continental Airlines dropped me off in Delhi at about 10 pm, my stomach full from an unexpectedly tasty Indian meal aboard the plane.

After a seamless stroll through passport control, I spent about a half hour waiting for my back pack at the baggage carousel. No worries, though, as the baggage claim hall was filled with the soothing sounds of Kenny G-style Christmas music.

Now, I was warned many times before I departed that nothing in India makes sense; I’d have to say that tonight’s musical selection certainly validates those warnings.

So I pass through the doors of Customs, into the arrival hall, which consists of metal gates on either side of a walkway, behind which stood about sixteen-thousand people… all holding little white pieces of paper with anywhere from one to three names illegibly scrawled in black marker. Luckily my driver, Kumar, found some prime real estate up front and we quickly made our way to his Tata outside.

The first thing that hits you when you arrive in Delhi is the smell. It’s like nothing you’ve ever inhaled before–kind of a mix of the scent of a sweet wax candle, diesel exhaust and plain old smoke. You can actually see the smokeĀ  in the air. It’s not fog, it’s not haze, it’s not smog. No, the Weather Channel has it right when it describes (every single day) the weather conditions in New Delhi as “Smoke.”

Anyway, we’re motoring along at a good clip, disregarding the lane markers painted on the road, of course, and Kumar turns around and offers me a beautiful necklace of fresh flowers. “Welcome to India!” he says with a giant grin. “This is your first time?”

“Yes, first time,” I reply, thanking him for the bouquet.

“Do you like how the flowers smell?” he asks.

“Oh yeah, they smell great.”

“Good! Flower necklace: 150 Rupees.”

And there it is, the true welcome to India.

With that, we pull into a gas station. And I’m watching the ticker count up, liter after liter, Rupee after Rupee, thinking, “this better stop soon because I’m probably going to have to pay for this gas, too.”

Or not. About a half hour later after a wonderful conversation–by “wonderful” I mean that neither of us understood a word that the other said–we pulled into the lot at my guest house.

“So how much do I owe you?” I asked, anxiously fumbling with my soon-to-be-vigorously-depleted stack of Indian bills.

“None, taxi fare is included with your hotel stay. Just whatever tip you would like to give, if you want.”

No mention of the gas. Nothing about the flowers (that have since stained my shirt). Just some good wishes for my stay… and the compulsory offer to pick me up tomorrow morning for a tour of the city.

We’ll see about that tomorrow.

In the meantime, I’m going to try to catch some sleep–my room’s just off the lobby, where Lalit, the extraordinarily friendly guy who’s manning the front desk tonight, feverishly taps at the keys on his keyboard and swishes across the marble floor in his bare socks. Oh, and there are some Bollywood tunes blaring in the background.

As tired as I am, I can’t think of anything more appropriate.

Welcome to India.

P.S. Please bear with me as I get the blog up and running. Going to have lots of photos up here–once I take them–and a new header. In the meantime, leave some comments and be in touch!