We just returned home from a 7 days in India... We visited Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra.
I'm not quite sure what I expected, but whatever it was, India wasn't that. We had visited Haiti in the mid '80's so I have been in the developing world before. At the same time, I have read so much about a developing middle class in India and an economy that is going great guns. And of course, we were going to see some of the antiquities so I had them in mind also. Who doesn't think of the Taj Mahal when thinking of India? I guess I expected a little bit of Haiti and a lot of Silicon Valley with a few really old buildings added for flavor.
We arrived at the airport about 9:30 at night. Immediately on getting off the plane we smelled burning wood. (It was a smell that we experienced almost everywhere we went). That brought back memories of Haiti and the ubiquitous smell of burning charcoal. It was the first surprise.
Once we connected with our daughter, we went out to the car. There were hundreds of men gathered outside of the entrance. Two of them tried to carry our luggage. As I didn't know who was with our daughter, I allowed that... we got to the car and they wanted $5 for their work. And rubble... rubble everywhere. As we drove to the house I felt as if we had been transported to Blade Runner. All along the roads there were groups of men, sitting around piles of burning trash. We saw very few women outside that evening. The density of the buildings was higher than I had ever seen. In the mix there were vacant buildings, buildings that looked as if they had been bombed, buildings in use, and new construction in process everywhere. And the traffic was like nothing I had ever experienced. As Alexis said months earlier, traffic signs and lights, were only suggestions. Lane markers weren't even that. The roads were filled with cars, trucks, bicycle rickshaws, motorized rickshaws, pedestrians, feral dogs, cows, carts pulled by animals, buses, and motorcycles, all of them fighting for inches of space as 5 vehicles all rushed to fill a space meant for 2, snaking back and forth, all acting as if that single inch was the last one in the universe and that if they didn't get it, they were lost forever. Needless to say, in our time there, I don't recall ever seeing a vehicle that didn't have at least a few dents in it.
My friend Fernando Gros had lived in Delhi for 3.5 years and had told me that it was the "most challenging place" he had ever lived. Even during our ride to the house, I began to see that would be more true than I had imagined before going there. Little did I now. I also began to understand the difficulties that Alexis had been having in doing her work.
Over the next few days I'll try to process some of our experiences there and share my thoughts. One question that has already been asked is whether we would go back again. I don't know. If Alexis ends up back there at some time, which is very possible, we might. If she doesn't, I don't think so. I guess I see the fascination that some folk have with the place, I experienced the beauty, but I also saw the ugliness. For me, I'm not sure that the beauty outweighs the ugliness to a degree that would make me choose to visit there again. I do realize that a week and only three cities along with the countryside in between was only a tiny taste of the country... but for now, I think it was enough of a taste.
More to come...