This is surely a land of contradictions. New Delhi is made up of wide sweeping boulevards with little parks punctuating the sides. This isn’t the India typically depicted in movies; or at least not in Slumdog Millionaire. But before you can get used to this, the first dissonance appears, a shabby tent built right next to the entrance of an austere white mansion, apparently the residence of some important government officials. In no time, you’re thrown into the throes
of Old Delhi, and the guide yells at everyone to be on highest alert. We only have 2 minutes to get off the bus!
Old Delhi is a full on assault of the senses. Our tour guide somehow decided to take us on a speed walk through the little alleyways, and keeping safe 18 kids who seem to have a painful lack of awareness for traffic is no easy feat. There is an amazing palette of colours from the dazzling saris and the haphazardly colourful buildings that is juxtaposed with the drabness of the dirt and dust-cakes wires that hang precariously above you. If you’re lucky (which I wasn’t) you could even spot a baboon playing peekaboo. My ears could only pick out the horns, for survival purposes, since our main aim was to ensure that the kids didn’t get run down by the onslaught of tuk-tuks and mopeds, but when I looked at the videos I took later, I realised there was a perpetual tune and song playing in the background. Surreal.
Above all though, it’s the sense of smell that is most overwhelmed. You literally go from the smell of fresh flowers to PEE (capitalised to emphasise the pungence) to the smell of steamed sweet potatoes to fumes from the exhaust pipes to SPICES (capitalised to emphasis richness & fragrance) to PEE again. And the cycle just continues until you can almost imagine your nose screaming “that’s enough for now!” And of course, this was all done as we were doing a strange dance across the streets, avoiding potholes, puddles, poop, merchandise and oh, the sleeping dogs.
It was literally like being on a movie set.
I’ve tried hard to think of another city/country that I’ve been to that has been so damn overwhelming, and can encapsulate chaos and order so perfectly, and my mind draws a blank.
India, you impress me.