The Delhi Scam - My arrival in India

New Delhi Travel Blog

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At the crack of dawn I present my passport at immigration and Mr. Singh in his massive turban looks at my immigration card with a quizzical look.

“Address in India?” he asks with a raised eyebrow.

“I don´t know yet,” I reply. I can sense that this was not the answer he wanted to hear.

“Where are you going to stay?”

“In a hotel.”

“Which hotel?”

“Well, I don´t know yet. I haven´t booked anything. Probably somewhere in Paharganj.”

“Where?”

“Err, in Paharganj.”

“Do you have an address in Paharganj?”

“Not that I know of.” I smile. He doesn´t. This is not a great start, I think. He doesn´t like me. I want to say, ‘I´m not planning any terrorist attacks in your country, sir’ but decide against it.

“Please write down an address in the required field,” he says matter-of-factly.

“Err, would you like me to get out my guidebook, look up any address and write it down?”

He looks at me with contempt, staring me in the eyes for a long five seconds. Is he going to refuse me entry?

“Just write down Paharganj, New Delhi,” he says and adds, “I´ll make a note next to it.”

“A note?”

“Yes,” he says, crunching his teeth.

So I write down Grand Bazar, Paharganj, New Delhi and next to it I´ll make a note myself: ‘That´s where you´ll find me.’ Well, actually I don´t.

The officer takes the immigration card away from me like a piece of used toilet paper, then looks at me again for a long time and finally puts a stamp in my passport. And away I go, with bad karma awaiting me.

 

I walk past the baggage claim. As I brought only hand luggage to India I don´t have to wait and hope that doesn´t make me look more suspicious. In the arrival hall hundreds of people are smiling at me, or so it seems, but they are only smiling at their loved ones who are exiting behind me. All around me are shrieks of recognition and tears of happiness. Arrival halls at airports are always a stirring place for humanity. Arriving in a new place, I always feel two ways. On the one hand, there´s the sense of adventure and the excitement that flowers with the prospect of a new world awaiting me. On the other hand, I feel apprehensive as always in a new surrounding with only strangers in sight. The thing about me is this, I always expect the worst to happen, I´m paranoid about it, but at the same time, I always unconditionally believe in the good in people at first. I did not know it then, just after having arrived at the airport, but this attitude of mine would be a trigger for both my happy and my sad moments in India. I thought, after having successfully gone past immigration, everything would be alright from now on, that the city of Delhi would welcome me with open arms. And even though I´ve been warned several times about the Delhi scam, I didn´t realize I was part of a scam until the very end.

 

But first things first. I change some money at Thomas Cook, then have a samosa. A sign says: Ek samosa - 40 Rs. But the lady at the counter tells me: “You can´t take one samosa, you must take two. Two samosas for 40 Rs.” - “What if I only want one, though?” - “You must take two, sir.” I´m not going to argue against that, so I´ll take two. After eating, I´ll go to the prepaid taxi counter, pay 332 Rupees for the trip to Paharganj, and exit the airport building. In the grey light of the early morning, everything looks dark and gloomy, the area around the exit looks just like some deserted bus stop somewhere in the depth of Eastern Europe, except with loads of people. About half of those people are rushing towards me as they detect me as a Western target. I hand my ticket to the most trustful and cleanest looking guy, who then takes me aside and walks a few meters away from the crowd with me. Another guy, wearing an old beige jacket with lots of oil stains on it joins us. The first guy tells me “You go with him.” So, I go with oily guy. His name is Raja (which means king) and he abducts me to some parking lot a few hundred meters away from the airport, where his “car” is parked, a battered old piece of junk on wheels with loads of dents and missing parts. I think, this is India, I expected cars to look like this, and I know everyone tells you to take one of those black and yellow taxis but hey, he seems like a nice guy and I´ve had unoffical taxi drivers take me to where I wanted to in other countries before, so I don´t think much of it after all. Raja needs about five minutes to open the jammed car door. Time for me to smoke a cigarette and interrogate Raja for a bit:

“This is not a black and yellow taxi…”

“No, sir, but very best taxi, sir,” he assures me as he kicks against the door.

“Is it your car?”

“No, it is my cousin´s car. Very best cousin, sir.

“How old is the car?”

“Oh, not old, only ten years.” It looks like 30 years old.

He finally manages to prise open the car door and I take a seat. The car hesitantly rumbles to life with a growl and thunk and we speed off. As we´re leaving the airport, the sun makes its way over the horizon and hanging there low in the sky as if to greet me, signifies the light of a new chapter in my life.

 

The road from the airport to the city starts on a broad, new motorway. Then later, the roads become older and more bumpy. Next to the mostly unfinished roads I can make out many sleeping people covered with dusty blankets. Sometimes only a foot or a hand can be seen, the rest of their rag-wrapped bodies hidden. The still weak rays of the sun brush over those little human hills, this forest of bodies, submerging them in rays that suggest soonish resurrection. They might have just as well been corpses and certainly there are a few in this city of millions who will not wake up this morning and see this gorgeous spectacle of the sun as it rises reluctantly above the city. Every now and then there are small slums along the road: miserable looking shelters made from scraps of plastic and cardboard. As Raja drives past those people I look hard at them, searching for a sign of life - a rising chest, a quivering finger, a fluttering eyelid. The traffic seems to have no rules, that much I knew about India immediately. In India, there is no left-hand or right-hand traffic, there is only “anywhere-there-is-space” traffic. But it also seems that Indians miraculously manage to negotiate in this traffic. They seem to have an inborn instinct for skipping out of the way when they need to, finding ways to overtake that we wouldn´t even have dreamed of. People who are crossing the road jump, side-step or limp out of the way with only centimetres to spare. Honking is an Indian´s favourite past-time. But honking in India is nothing rude, it´s simply about warning other drivers, it simply means: Watch out, I´m a crazy driver, here I come!

Besides the homeless people looking tattered, I also notice that everything around them also has a grim look. There are building sites everywhere and torn up roads and unfinished buildings and disagreeable apartment buildings and rubbish piles and stray dogs and sun-burnt fields and the smell of exhaust fumes and pollution. There is so much ugliness around, so that, in a weird way, it accumulates to beauty. I am happy. I am in India.

Gazing at all these new impressions, trying to take in as much as possible, I barely notice that my driver is talking to someone on his mobile, mentioning my name and where I want to go. I haven´t slept for almost 24 hours and feel numb and in a different place: Physically in India but mentally in no man´s land.

Raja then asks me which hotel I wanted to go and if I had a reservation. I lie as I was told to do and say I had a reservation and he should take me to Grand Bazar in Paharganj. As expected, he´s trying to take me to a different hotel, saying it was “best hotel” and “very cheap”, but I stay firm and tell him to take me to Paharganj and nowhere else. Suddenly the car engine is making weird noises and before long the engine starts sputtering and finally comes to a complete stop next to the road. I ask the driver what was going on.

“Mechanical problem, mechanical problem,” he wails in a grief-stricken manner. And then, in a pathetic way, probably trying to touch on my compassion, he adds, “My family has big problems, so poor, no money...”. I get out the car on the driver´s side as there is shit flowing in the gutter on the other side. Behind my “taxi” stands a rickshaw as if it was there all along. I leave Raja, get on the rickshaw and tell the guy to take me to Paharganj. He turns around and goes back the way I came from. I ask him if he knows the way.

“Yes, sir, but there is problem.”

“What problem?”

“Paharganj is closed. Not possible to go there.“

“Why is that?”

“Sir, big festival in Delhi at the moment. And people are afraid of terrorist attack. There were attacks in Mumbai and Pune and now people are afraid it will happen in Delhi, too. All of Paharganj is closed. Not possible to go there.”

“You´re trying to tell me that all of Paharganj is closed down?? That´s bullshit. Take me to Grand Bazar!”

He keeps on driving. By now I have lost all sense of direction, only the sun tells me that we´re going east and that seems right to me. About five minutes later the rickshaw stops at a closed-off street. At the entrance stands an old man, shouting at me and the driver:

“No, no, no! You can´t go in here! All closed! Festival! Terrorist attack! Paharganj is closed! Not possible!” He shouts in a scary way, thereby menacingly waiving his arms about in the air for emphasizing. So we turn around again, going yet another direction. By now, I don´t believe what´s happening and I think, all this can´t be true but being tired and exhausted I just want a bed. I don´t have to stay in Paharganj. So I ask the driver to drive me to Connaught Place instead. He agrees and keeps on driving. We start by going south until we end up at India Gate, then he changes direction again and goes north and finally stops in front of a building.

“What´s here? This is not Connaught Place!” I say quite annoyed by now.

“This is tourist information office, sir. You can ask for hotel here.”

 

A guy comes out of the building and greets me warmly. He´s rubbing his eyes and looks like he just woke up.

“Good morning, sir, how can I help you?”

“I´m looking for a place to stay. Can you recommend anything around here?”

“Sure, please come inside and we see what we can do.”

I enter the office room. The cool wind of the high-speed fan cools my sweat and my temper a bit. I slump down on a chair at his desk. Behind the desk is a small storage room with a blanket on the floor and I suppose that´s where the guy slept. A map of India and pictures of the countries’ most famous sights decorate the walls. The guy takes a seat opposite me and asks me in a friendly way whether I would like some cay. I agree and he shouts something towards the backroom. A boy, about 10 years old, emerges and sleepily stands next to the desk. “Do cay dijiye!” says the older guy. (Bring us two cays). The boy disappears in the backroom again, preparing cay. The guy opposite me takes out a packet of Goldflake cigarettes and offers me one. I thank him and take one and together we blow smoke into the air. After doing friendly small talk for a while I explain my situation and that all I want is a cheap and clean bed. He repeats what the rickshaw driver had been telling me about, that there was a festival going on and everything was booked out but that I would be welcome to use his phone and try calling some hotels. So I take out my guidebook, choose a hotel, show him the number, he picks up the phone, dials the number and then hands me the receiver. It´s ringing and after a while someone picks up. I ask him whether they had any room available but he only apologies and says they were full. I consequently try about five different hotels in Paharganj, a few around Connaught Place and a few in South Delhi. The guy always calls the number for me and sometimes hands me the phone or asks for a room himself. In the meantime the cay has arrived, we say cheers and drink the delicious beverage. After about a dozen fruitless phone calls I give up frustrated and ask him what he thinks I should do. He suggests I could take a train to Agra or Jaipur. I tell him I have a train to Jaipur booked for tomorrow and just want to stay in Delhi for one night. Still he calls the train reservation number and I talk to them asking if there was a seat on a train to Jaipur today but the train´s are also full. Then the tourist officer says that sometimes the hotels don´t take any reservations via the phone so maybe I could still get a room if I turned up personally. So I ask him whether there were any hotels within walking distance from here but he negates. However, he suggests I should take a rickshaw to “Market Street” as there were many middle-class hotels there and I could try my luck there. So I agree and thank him in a much appreciated way. Outside of the tourist office the same rickshaw driver as before is still waiting for me. The tourist officer tells him in Hindi where he should take me next. We speed off again into yet another unknown direction.

 

After about five minutes we stop in front of a hotel. The Patel Continental. A bellboy opens the glass door for me with a big smile. I walk up to the reception.

“Do you have a room?”

“Let me have a look,” the receptionist opens the registration book and scans it with his finger. “Yes, sir, we have a room indeed.”

“How much is it?”

“Sir, why don´t you have a look at the room first?”

“Okay, why not.”

So the bellboy shows me a room upstairs. It is a window-less room that has a double-bed with semi-clean sheets, an attached semi-clean bathroom with some cracks in the ceiling and leaking water from a mildewed tap. A slow fan whirling warm, stuffy air around and walls painted in headache-yellow. I decide to take it and walk back to the reception.

“Okay, I´ll take it. How much is it?”

“Sir, the room is 50 Euro.”

“What?!”

“50 Euro, sir. Including breakfast, hot water, 24 hour reception...

I see a sign on the wall, saying ‘luxury tax 12.50 %’ and ‘special tax 10 %’.

“What about this tax?”

“Yes, there is a surplus of 22.5 % tax.”

“So 50 Euro is including tax, right?”

“No, sir, 50 Euro is the net price, including tax it is...,” he quickly types numbers into his calculator, “...62 Euro, but for you only 60 Euro, sir.”

“60 Euro?! Are you kidding me!? No way!”

I decide to leave and walk out the hotel. Outside, my rickshaw driver is still standing there and asks me what the problem was. I tell him about the price and he says that everything else was full and if they had a room I should just take it. Then the receptionist comes outside again and says

“What´s the problem, sir?”

“What´s the problem? 60 Euro is simply ridiculous.”

“Okay, we can give it to you for 50 Euro then.”

I look a the receptionist, then at the rickshaw driver, then back at the receptionist. I feel like shit. I´m tired and hungry and sweaty and for a moment I´m seriously considering to give in and pay the 50 Euro.

 “Sir, will you take the room?”

But then I think otherwise.

“I don´t know yet, I need a cigarette first.”

“Yes, certainly but the room might be taken soon, so you should take it quickly before someone else does.”

“Just give me five minutes, okay?”

 

I walk away from the hotel for a few meters and sit down on a stone next to the road, lighting a cigarette. I rub my forehead, trying to press the stress away and most of all, I´m trying to think clearly. And then unconsciously my mind tells me in silent whispers ‘Scam. This is a scam. Get out of there.’ I try to focus. I´m going through every detail again. The unoffical taxi driver, the phone call he made mentioning my name, who did he call and why? The break-down, the rickshaw already waiting behind the taxi, why was it there? The story about the festival, surely if there was a big festival on the day of my arrival I would have heard about it before, right? The old man at the entrance of that closed off street, who was he anyways? Sure, the street was closed off but what street was it anyways? It couldn´t have been the Grand Bazar. And then the tourist information office. The guy was so nice in there and gave me tea and cigarettes and he was so helpful. No, no, no, wait a minute, think straight now! Focus! Why did he dial all the numbers for me? And why the hell did the voice on the phone always sound so similar? And all the while the rickshaw driver was waiting outside the office, as if he expected me to come back, as if his mission wasn´t complete yet. What kind of tourist information was it anyways? There was no sign for it on the building. Sure, there were maps and pictures of India on the walls and a nice desk with important looking stuff but so what? Can it be? Was it a fake tourist office? Or maybe not a fake tourist office, maybe they actually do bookings and stuff for tourists, but what about the phone calls? What else did the guy say? He said ‘Please sit opposite me, it´s nicer to be sitting face to face, isn´t it?’ Hmm, isn´t it? Maybe he just did that so that I couldn´t see the numbers he dialled. And again, the voice sounded so similar at any phone call. Did he call the same number again and again? And then this ridiculous price. 50 Euro. Why did he quote the price in Euro? How did he even know I had Euro? I don´t know much yet about average prices for rooms in India, but I know that the room they showed me is never worth 50 or 60 Euro. And then ‘luxury tax’, what the fuck is that supposed to be? I didn´t see any luxury in there. Is it all a big coincidence? It all seemed so real. All these thoughts are swirling around my head, making me almost dizzy.

But by now I´m sure, it finally dawned on me: This is a scam!

 

After finishing my cigarette I get up and simply walk away from the hotel. The rickshaw driver sees me and runs after me.

“Sir, where you going?”

“Leave me alone, I don´t need you anymore!”

“But why? Where you going? No hotel where you going.”

“I don´t care if there´s a hotel or not. I just want to get away from here.”

“But, sir,…”

“Don´t fucking sir me, this is a big scam and you fucking know it.”

“No, sir, no scam, good hotel.”

“Just leave me alone! Tang mat karo, thik hai?!”

And so he finally does leave me alone. I turn around again and see the receptionist standing at the door, signalling for me with his hand to come back. But I´m not stopping anymore. I simply walk away, even though I have no idea where I am or where I am going to. I´m thinking what to do next. After having walked away from the hotel for about five blocks, I go inside a little shop and buy a bottle of water. I ask the shop owner in Hindi ‘kya aj dilli me ek festival hai?’ (Is there a festival in Delhi today?) and he looks at me puzzled and simply shakes his head. Now, did he shake his head because he didn´t understand me or because there is no festival? I ask again, maybe my pronunciation wasn´t correct. And then he says in English ‘No, no festival’ and then asks me if I spoke Hindi and we start a small talk. It´s my first small talk in Hindi and it is the usual questions: Where do you live? What do you do? Are you married? Questions that I would be asked in India a thousand times. However, it was the first time I had a decent conversation with an honest Indian. At that moment, the shopowner seemed like my only friend in India. The bottle of water costs 15 Rs and because he was so nice to me, I´m trying to tip him and give him 20 Rs but he refuses, almost seems offended that I tried to give him more, and after some friendly arguing he gives me the 5 Rs change and smiles that big smile of his that only Indians are capable of and that I would come to love during my time here. It´s a grin with that perfect sincerity, you might even call it a simple-minded smile, but most of all it´s an honest smile. I step outside of the shop, open my bottle of water and take a big sip. A rickshaw jerks to a halt next to me.

“Rickshaw?”

“Can you take me to Paharganj?”

“Paharganj? Yes. Get in.

“How much?”

“50 Rs.”

“Okay.”

I climb in, the driver speeds away as the shop owner is waving after me. And without any more words from the driver, without any break-downs, without any closed off streets or any other obstacles, we arrive at Paharganj’s Grand Bazar with no trouble whatsoever.

 

The Grand Bazar street looks like I expected it, with many shops, many locals going about their business and many other backpackers. I´m relieved. I feel like I´ve returned from a dark alley to a street of light. I pay the rickshaw driver, walk down the main street, enter the Hotel Anoop, which I remembered from my guidebook, ask for a room, have a look at it, and pay 500 Rs for it. I remember actually having called Hotel Anoop from the “tourist information”, so I ask the receptionist

“Excuse me, but did you receive a call about half an hour ago?”

“What do you mean?”

“I called here about half an hour ago. Do you remember my voice?”

“No, sorry, we didn´t have any phone calls this morning.”

“Oh, okay, never mind then.”

So I was right. It was a scam and everything was just fake. I still feel frustrated and cheated and betrayed and used but at the same time I´m happy I was able to detect the fakeness in the end. And better late than never. Because of my tiredness and general expectation of real and honest helpfulness I didn´t realize what was going on at first. All I wanted was a bed to rest my head and almost got caught in a trap. Just like a mouse that´s only hungry and wants the cheese and gets caught in the trap. Just like the mouse I only saw the delicious cheese but didn´t notice that underneath it all was a mean trick to suck the blood (the money) out of me. It certainly was a bad start for my Indian adventure but looking back now I´m glad that I made the experience. It certainly has taught me a lesson and showed me to always be alert. Somewhat happy after all, I fall into bed and pass out immediately.

 

 

I wake up at 3pm, take a hot shower, and then step outside into the pleasant heat. I make the obligatory phone call. Then I walk into an internet cafe where I have to show my passport before I´m allowed to use the internet. The guy takes a copy of it, writes down my details and all that annoying useless stuff. Terrorist paranoia. A guy next to me introduces himself as a “driver” and offers me a sightseeing tour. As I´m still too tired and already had my fair share of “drivers” today, I kindly refuse his offer but he keeps asking me questions about my upcoming trip around India.

“Why will you travel by train?”

“Why not?”

“Trains are not nice. Never on time. Too many people. And there are many nice places to see between the places you´re going to by train. Trains don´t go there. It´s a lot better with a driver.”

“Actually I like traveling by train.”

“Why do you like trains?”

“Trains are romantic. And it´s easy to meet people.”

“No no, not good for meeting people, trains are only crowded.”

“Well, I´m still going by train, you´re not going to change my mind.”

“Yes, but believe me, you should have a private driver in India. It is so much better than trains.”

“I don´t think so.”

“Yes, but you´re not Indian, so you don´t know. I´m Indian, so I know what I´m talking about. I know better than you.”

“Good for you.”

 

I go back to the hotel and relax a little more. At 6pm my stomach sends a message saying it was hungry. Even though there is a nice rooftop restaurant on top of Hotel Anoop and many other restaurants on the Grand Bazar street, I spontaneously decide to take a rickshaw to Connaught Place. This is how I imagine my evening: I step out onto the street, stop a rickshaw, tell the driver to take me to Connaught Place, like, you know, to the center of Connaught Place, because I think there are surely shitloads of restaurants around there and some nice areas for taking a stroll after dinner. But of course in India things are rarely the way you expect them to be. It starts well, I find a rickshaw immediately but soon the driver starts pestering me.

“Where would you like to go?”

“Do you know a nice restaurant around Connaught Place?”

“What kind of restaurant?”

“An Indian restaurant with nice and cheap food. Somewhere where you would go for dinner as well.”

“Certainly. There are many good restaurants. What else would you like to do there.”

“Oh, I don´t know yet, just have some food first and then walk around a bit, maybe do some window shopping.” I shouldn´t have used the word shopping in the presence of a rickshaw driver as that is his cue.

“You like shopping?”

“Well…”

“There are some nice shops next to the restaurants, very best shopping. Would you like to go?”

“Actually I´m just hungry and would like to eat.”

“Yes, very good eating, but only one shop. Just one best shop and then go for dinner, thik hai?”

“Aacha, why not?” I´ve heard about rickshaw drivers trying to take you to shops as they get commission for it and generally I don´t like these kind of things but I think, well, let´s get it over with just once, only for the experience. So the rickshaw drives around forever until we finally stop at some fancy looking shop. I´m their only customer and as I enter the carpet and artifact / bullshit store about ten employees with nothing to do greet me as if I was Uncle Scrooge:

“Hello sir, hello sir, how can I help you, look here, look here, go on second floor, go downstairs, look at this, beautiful, best products, best prices, sir, sir, sir, come here, look at that, what would you like, may I wipe your ass, please?” Out of courtesy I look around the shop for a while acting interested. In the basement (“downstairs, yes, go downstairs, very good downstairs”) an employee literally rolls out the red carpet for me, along with about fifty other carpets of “best quality”. I ask about the price of one of the smaller carpets and after having consulted his calculator for Euro conversion the shop´s master bootlicker tells me it was 300 Euro for the carpet and the delivery via DHL to Germany. In order to prove his extraordinary capability of shipping goods overseas he shows me a bill that proves he has sent something to the UK before. I congratulate him on this achievement: “You´re a legend, how on earth did you do that?” He doesn´t get my sarcasm and keeps on boasting about his delivery skills, showing me the way they pack a carpet and make it ready for shipment. Formally I tell him I needed to think about it but would be happy to take his business card and come back the following day. He unrolls some more carpets and all the while says things like “discount, discount, special quality, only quality in Delhi, can´t find anywhere else, best price, only for you special discount, you like, you like, you like???” As entertaining as it is, I´m not going to buy a carpet or anything and am still hungry, so after having received ten business cards (“for your friends, for good recommendations”) I leave their shop and get on the rickshaw again. My driver negotiates with the shopkeepers for a long time, probably trying to sack some commission. Then he finally comes back and asks me:

“You like shop?”

“No!”

 

I tell him to take me to some restaurant now without any more detours but despite his repeated assurance that he knows a good restaurant he keeps on driving around forever and looks around in the darkness for any sign of a restaurant. It´s obvious he doesn´t know the way.

“Look, just take me to Connaught Place, alright, it can´t be that difficult to find a cheap restaurant or some take away place.” But it is difficult. The thing about New Delhi is this. There´s nothing there. There is no center where people mingle around in the evening. Sure, there´s Connaught Place and India Gate which on a map look like some interesting center places where you imagine a lot of stuff happening with all the facilities you need for a pleasant evening. But in fact there is nothing there. The roads are dark. The sidewalks deserted or non-existent. There´s no life. My driver finally finds a place called Bangna or Gangna or whatever with five or so restaurants next to each other around an ugly courtyard. And all of the restaurants are fancy with expensive prices. However, as I´m hungry and bored of driving around New Delhi forever, I give in and eat in one of those restaurants. And the food in there was delicious but also cost me 350 Rs (6 Euro) which is still cheap for what I ate and drank but quite expensive for Indian standards. It´s certainly not what I imagined but my driver probably thought ‘oh, he´s a tourist and probably wants to eat in a nice and upscale restaurant’. What´s also daft is that my driver is waiting outside all the time even though I told him not to wait. Now he constantly looks into the window, observing my progress at dinner. This sucks. At least I´m not hungry anymore. Later I tell my “best driver” to take me back to my hotel but he still keeps on driving around in the darkness forever seeming lost and asking me stupid stuff.

“Are you married?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Well...”

“You like Indian women?”

“Well...”

“They will be available for you. You just have to let me know. Best Indian women for your good self only.”

 

Waiting at a redlight, I look at a pedestrian refuge island and think that in Delhi this term fits perfectly for it. Being a raised, curbed area for pedestrians at busy crossroads the term refuge island is very apt because the people who live there probably came from the countryside in the hope of finding a better life in the city and looking for a refuge they found a refuge island. As I´m gazing at it and the people lying there amidst the rubbish and dust, a girl notices me, stands up, picks up her sleeping baby, walks towards me, makes a cup with her hand, asks me for money and tries to look more miserably than she already does and pointing at her delirious baby. The first sight of an Indian beggar and a look at their practiced sad facial expression clutches at your heart with talons of shame. It´s a shame about one´s own well-being and the money in our pockets. The first confronation with one of those wretched, fellow human beings leaves you speculating about the world around you, just like many other things in India do. Then often this lacerating guilt turns into disappointment at the unfairness of the world. How can people live like this and why are we not doing anything against it? Who is to be held responsible for this tragedy? How can we, how can I REALLY help?

The traffic light turns green and we speed away from the misery, leaving me with competing thoughts of guilt and sadness and anger and indifference.

Back at my room I rewind my first day in India and can only hope that tomorrow will be a better day. Sure, India is incredible. The slogan “Incredible India” is true but it is not only incredible in the intended way of the tourism industry, it is at times also an incredibly incredulous delight. It´s needlessly stressful. The question is: Are Indians simply not used to Westerners and their needs and wants or is it us that have to adapt to Indians first in order to get our bearings? And more importantly, do we have to behave in a tough and somewhat arrogant way in order to get what we want. Like telling rickshaw drivers „don´t fucking take me to that place, take me where I told you to, you hear me?!“ Of course there´s certainly no need for using swear words but a bit of toughness and insistence surely helps. In order to manage India best, I decide to have a drink before bedtime, a nightcap: a cup of calmness with a pinch of humour and three drops of confidence. And then start anew tomorrow…

khoinui says:
Thanks for sharing .
Posted on: Jun 19, 2016
jethanad says:
Delhi is INCREDIBLE
Posted on: Dec 07, 2015
Starberri21 says:
what a rough day.. im hoping we have better luck
Posted on: Mar 07, 2014
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