I loved reading your comments on Day 1! Please keep it up. (I’m catching up posting these, because we’re already on day 4, so they’ll go fast for awhile and then slow to one a day.)
Todd and I head downstairs and eat dosa for breakfast at the hotel. The hotel is next to the airport which makes it an ideal place to land, but it feels like a businessperson’s bubble and we’re both relieved to be checking out.
A wedding reception is wrapping up in the hotel ballroom and each woman who walks through the lobby towards the parking lot is wearing a more stunning dress than the last. I wish I had the guts to ask for a photo but I look at the floor instead. We check out at the front desk and then when the doorman moves to take our suitcases before calling over an autorickshaw driver we tell him we’re walking. He’s so sure he’s misunderstood that he asks us to wait and gets his manager who listens and then shrugs and gestures for the doorman to hand back our suitcases.
When we get outside I realize that the women haven’t left yet. They’re posing for photos already so I gather up my courage and run over. “Your dresses are so beautiful!” I say breathlessly, “Um! Would it – can I take a photo of all of you?” They are extremely gracious and they even pose. I thank them and Todd and I walk five minutes to the Metro station.
At the Metro we buy two small plastic tokens for 40 Rs. (75 cents) each and then we put our suitcases and backpacks on a conveyer belt so they can be x-rayed. Todd heads to the Male Security Check and I head to the Female Security Check (mine is in a tent) and the genial security guards make sure I’m not evil and smile when I’m not. I don’t know if the security checks are standard proceedure for every Delhi station, but if it is, wow! It must be really time consuming, especially during rush hour.
We board the subway car. It feels very familiar, as it’s made by Bombardier who also makes the Toronto subway cars. I am the only woman and a young man who’s sitting in the chair labeled “LADIES ONLY” starts to stand up when he sees me, then when I sit somewhere else he settles himself down again. We pass apartment buildings festooned with colorful drying clothes and highways under construction.
At the New Delhi station we get off in order to switch subway lines. We stop at a washroom and I pee, then look around and laugh out loud when I realize that not only is there no toilet paper, there’s not even a toilet paper holder. I mean, there has NEVER been any toilet paper in this washroom stall, ever, in the history of time. I eye the hose by the toilet for a moment, but decide that I’m more likely to soak my skirt accidentally while trying to clean myself than to do it right. (I am on the lookout now for travel kleenex, you bet.)
On the way to the new subway line, we see a poster with an old man on one side and a little kid on the other, they’re both smiling. The tagline says, “A smile is contageous, leprosy is NOT.” The poster goes on to say that it’s not hereditary (which I knew) and it can be easily cured with one visit to a clinic which I didn’t know at all. The poster encourages me to spread the word, so I am doing that right now. See? We’re all learning new things.
We get on the new subway car with our suitcases. A man in his late sixties gets on too and a young man immediately jumps up so the older man can sit down and he does with no acknowlegment. I am charmed that the elders take respect as their due here.
At our stop we get off and see a digital readout telling us that the air quality is “moderate” and dangerous for people with asthma and heart problems. Another sign tells us that riding on the roof of the subway carries a 50 Rs. fine ($0.94) but that spitting is 300 Rs. ($3.75). Both fines are 100% effective as far as I can tell. A young woman sits next to a machine that will tell you your height, weight, and body mass index for just 10 Rs. (19 cents) but no one seems interested. There is a line at the entrance that stretches at least eighty people long, so maybe they really do have security checks at every station? Yow.
Upstairs there are autorickshaws everywhere. One driver walks up and asks if we’d like a ride. Todd says no thank you, we’re walking in Hindi, then asks which way we should walk. He points us in the right direction, which is very kind of him, as he could have said almost anything in the world (“There are giant rabbits who eat you if you walk that way”) and we would have believed him and gotten in the autorickshaw. I make a quick video before we start walking and then we’re on our way.
We walk past a dog with a tumour on her leg who is ambling towards an apartment building. A man whistles and the dog trots over. The man throws down a roti. The dog sniffs it, then looks up hopefully for a meat filling but the man’s already gone. She picks up the roti in her mouth and wanders off to eat it all up. We’re on the sidewalk, but it’s made of stones that aren’t always even, so it’s exciting when we get to turn into an enclave. These are traffic-free areas except for pedestrians and people who live there, so we go from ALL THE SOUND to nothing but twitchy crows and footsteps. The low rise apartments – which almost all seem to date from the 1960s – in the enclave surround a park, and I want to spend the rest of my day here. But we’re not at our Airbnb listing yet, so we leave the enclave and step back onto the rubbly and muddy sidewalk. Sometimes there’s no sidewalk at all, which is scary because I only have 30% hearing in my left ear, but generally traffic is coming towards us so I can always see it first.
We pass signs nailed to trees which read “PG Rooms For Boys, Hi-Tech and Luxury”. We walk by three different autorickshaw drivers having a break and a pee. And then we hear a MONKEY screeching! We can’t see the monkey (which is lucky because for real, guys, I WANT TO SNUGGLE THEM and they do not like snuggling at ALL) but it’s very exciting. We pass a man sitting on the sidewalk in an old office chair, watching the world go by.
Our Airbnb is in the next enclave, this one with a park so huge that the air is positively fragrant with flowers. There are groups of people everywhere chatting in Hindi and there’s a whole section where young men are playing cricket. I feel so lucky to be here.
It’s almost eleven p.m., so I’ll take up where I left off tomorrow with more stories. I’ll be posting video and photos via Instagram regularly throughout the day, so be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already: https://www.instagram.com/sagetyrtle/