We awoke to our first full day in India together this morning, here in New Delhi, where the humidity today was at 85 percent, and the temperature, depending on the time of day, was anywhere between 85 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit. I’ve never been a fan of humidity and dislike it when people rave about how good it is for one’s skin; I don’t care how good it is for my skin if I am stifling for air to breathe and get through the day. Who cares if you have great skin if you can’t breathe and die?
I can’t say more things about how intense and overwhelming the traffic has been. We took advantage of Uber in the city and also did quite a bit of walking, which apparently is not “normal” here for people who are not of lower classes. Upper class people get driven; lower class people walk. Since we’re foreigners who are visiting this country on holiday, by default, we are “upper class.” “Autos” or motorized tuk-tuks kept stopping to ask us if we wanted a ride, and when we said no and that we wanted to walk, they gave us befuddled stares and said we didn’t need to walk if we could get a ride. There are dotted white lines along the roads to indicate different lanes to drive in, as well as a double white line in the center of the ride to denote traffic going in opposite directions, but none of that mattered since there was absolutely no semblance of any order whatsoever. The dotted lines sometimes didn’t exist, and they didn’t really need to since no one really saw them or paid them any attention. A road was simply a road to drive a vehicle or walk on. Our own Uber and auto drivers would drive across the double-white line into oncoming traffic to then make turns. Autos along the road would almost drive into each other before swerving at the last minute to avoid each other. The autos, which at best could fit three passengers plus the driver, would stuff in as many as six or even people into the backseat. And we haven’t even gotten into the fact that it wasn’t even just auto and cars along the road; there were also pedestrians walking in all directions, with and against the traffic, plus cows and the occasional goat. We even saw chickens coming from who knows where and walking into the streets. Somehow and quite luckily, I didn’t see one chicken fatality.
Although New Delhi is the capital of India, it felt far less like a government city today and more like an enlarged rural area. The roads are paved, but if they weren’t, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it given how overwhelming and chaotic the traffic flow was. The crowds, the humidity, the frenzied traffic and total disorder: this is actually kind of how I imagined India to be. Although I will say that contrary to what others have warned me about (because it seems that everyone has an opinion on India and its lack of cleanliness), it’s nowhere as dirty as people have told me it was; I’ve seen similar if not worse levels of filth and trash in places like Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Brazil, and even parts of South Africa where the slums are.