Pranam, Incredible India
New Delhi Travel Blog› entry 13 of 13 › view all entries
April 15th, 2009 – by: merk888
Ok, one quick example, and it's by no means isolated. As I sat on my roll bag on the platform ten feet from the tracks, which were 4 feet below platform level, reading a book at about 2:00 in the morning, periodically looking up to watch the rats scurry past, I heard approaching from behind me the sound of clack-clack...clack-clack...clack-clack. As the sound moved past me on my left I looked up and saw an old man dressed in Indian peasant garb--basically a bed sheet wrapped around his torso and between his legs--with only one leg using makeshift metal crutches making his way to the edge of the platform. When he got to the very edge he adjusted his wrap and began urinating onto the tracks below. Unfortunately he didn't have quite enough oomph left to complete the process so the last 10 seconds or so resulted in a large puddle forming around his bare feet that very slowly started making its way toward me. I got up and moved my stuff out of the way of the oncoming stream of urine and sat back down, this time about 10 feet away from a group of 4 Indian women sleeping on the platform floor all in a row, sardine-like. (if you're wondering why I chose a spot right by people sleeping on the floor, there's no choice. Literally hundreds of people sleep on the floor all over the train station) One of the women began loudly coughing up phlegm like she had emphysema, tuberculosis, and a bad cold all rolled into one. Every 30 seconds or so she'd walk over to the edge of the platform and spit a mouthful onto the tracks below. I'm pretty sure I saw several rats grab their little throats and vomit.
I finally boarded my train at 4:30AM and slept until about 6:30 when one of my 3 berth mates loudly answered his cell phone and turned on the light. After that I was pretty much up for the rest of the ride. After we arrived in Delhi at 1:30 that afternoon I checked my luggage in the train station's cloak room and caught an auto rickshaw to do some site seeing. My driver said it was about 40 to 41 degrees outside, which I thought was about the mid 90's. It's more like 105F and the hot season is just beginning. It'll continue to get progressively hotter until the monsoons start in late June. First stop was Connaught Place, an upscale shopping area built in the '30's by Sir Somebody-or-Other Connaught of Britain as an alternative to Old Delhi's bazaars. It's a bit long in the tooth but still offered some amazingly beautiful stores. After that my driver took me to Delhi's famous India Gate for a quick photo op, then to a restaurant back by the train station (and yes, I had my long awaited beer. And it was sooo good)
Indira Gandhi Int'l Airport in Delhi is amazingly small for a city of 16 million people but most Indians are either too poor to afford air travel or are just too used to traveling by rail. The thing that amazed me though was airport security. Never in my life have I seen such intense security as I have at this airport. I don't know if it's just the general state of alert to terrorism in this country or the fact that India's elections started that day or what, but I had my passport and carry on checked at least a dozen times as I made my way to the jetway. I was questioned in incredible detail about where I was coming from, where I was going, why I was in India, how I got to the airport, what was the name of the train I took from Allahabad, and so on; time and time again. And practically each time my triple-filter, water bottle was dismantled and examined as if it were a bomb, which, frankly it looks exactly like.
Beyond that, thankfully, the remaining and final part of my trip was uneventful. I've heard people say that India stands for I'll Never Do It Again. I don't think I will do it again but not because it was a bad trip. During the 5 weeks I was there I didn't get sick once, and believe me, I ate everything and anything. I loved the intensity, diversity and richness of the Indian culture. But as with my trip to China, I can't really say this was a fun or highly pleasurable experience. It was fascinating but it wasn't easy. Maybe things that are truly worthwhile never are. Namaste.
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