From Toronto to India: Day 1 in Delhi
By Rosie Kristina
I decided to head out to India with the end of 2016 approaching and the uneasy realization that I would soon be turning thirty. Planning a trip for India is challenging, as it should be. Nothing goes as expected and nothing can prepare you for the culture shock of your first entrance into a country that is contradictory and hyper-real at once.
I landed into Indira Gandhi International Airport and quickly headed to exchange my money. Almost one hour later, I had enough money to last for the next couple of weeks. It wasn’t an exactly exciting entrance but a necessary task since the ongoing Indian money crisis which left citizens and tourists with limited access to newer notes.
After, I tried to buy a SIM card and was quickly scammed into paying an exuberant fee (around 30 CDN) by Indian standards. SIM cards in India normally go for around 200 rupees ($4 CDN), which I found out only later. This would be the beginning of what tourists who visit India know all too well. There are endless scams and everyone negotiates for a price and if you still aren’t satisfied, walking away will do the trick to bring that sky-high price down.
I ordered a radio-operated taxi which is reputed to be more reliable than others around. After trying to find my driver for another half an hour, we began the descent into the belly of Delhi, and I got my first glimpse of the type of this fascinating world.
In the city, heavy traffic and relentless honking will overwhelm you. I have heard many things about the driving in India. But it’s completely different in person. While I had a pretty good driver, the ride was still bumpy and fraught with hard swerves, near misses and general anxiety throughout.
I was picked up by the owner of a small eco-farm that sits on the outskirts of Delhi near the Bata Chowk station. It’s situated in the larger region of Delhi referred to as Delhi NCR, National Capital Region. The roads here are smaller, and dustier. The area looks more like a desert and less like a lush tropical forest that Delhi encompasses with wide lanes full of palm trees and roaming monkeys.
The clothing here becomes more traditional, full Kurtas or saris for women and men with faces and shoulders draped in scarves. The noise of the cars became less distinct inside the farm. It felt really like an oasis to be around with nature after the tiring ride into the countryside. The courtyard was beautifully set with patio furniture against the middle of a green field.
I met with some of the others, all youngish, staying either at the hostel or who worked there, who then invited me to a game of Frisbee. I spent a lot of time talking about where I was from and where I wanted to travel. It was such a blur, but I do remember that by the end of the night I no longer doubted my decision to come to India!
Valentines Day fast approaching!