Saturday, 19 February 2011

Delhi, India

When I landed in Delhi, the first revelation I had was that I felt very much like a child again.  Everything was so new and novel and fascinating to me.  Stray dogs and cows sauntered down the streets.  Trash littered the roads.  A monkey scampered along an electrical wire overhead.

The streets of Old Delhi.

People drive on the left side of the street in India.  Except there are no lanes.  Taxis, motorbikes, auto rickshaws, cycle rickshaws, people, and city buses all swerve around one another, blaring their horns.

Ironically, I haven't seen a single accident.

I experienced sensory overload.  As they say in the Army, I felt like I was "drinking from a fire hose."  Except this was one fire hose that I didn't want to stop drinking from.  Ever.

After wandering the streets of Old Delhi for a bit (there is also a New Delhi portion of the city) we wandered into Delhi's oldest mosque, the Jama Masjid.

Jama Masjid.

In order to go inside the Jama Masjid, we had to take off our shoes and don a billowing cape that they handed out to us at the front door.  It was beautiful and peaceful inside the mosque, with birds flying overhead.  I don't subscribe to organized religion, but here as in some other places of organized religion I have visited, I could sense a spiritual aura.  

Shoes at the door.

We returned to our hotel, retrieved our bags and headed to the train station.  

Four boys sniff glue on the shit-covered train tracks in Delhi.  When they noticed that I was taking their picture they called out, "One rupee.  One rupee."  I didn't pay them.

We rode the sleeper train for 18 hours to Jaisalmer.  I was jet lagged, and the motion of the train rocked me to sleep.  The cabins were mixed gender and on the other side of the room, two Indian men laughed and snuggled together under a blanket, listening to their radio.  In India, it is culturally acceptable for men to hold hands, hug, kiss and...snuggle.  I saw this display of same-sex affection three years ago in nearby Afghanistan.  

In the middle of the night, I went in search of a toilet.  

Indian style toilet.  Yes, you squat.

I am now a fan of the squat toilet.  A huuuugge fan.  

On trains, in cinemas, restaurants and hotels across India I have noticed that there is often a western and Indian style toilet available at the same facility.  The squat toilets are always cleaner.  No pee and poo stains dribbling down a bowl.  No need to worry about putting your bum down on a dirty seat.  I can't speak highly enough of the squat toilet, and if I ever own a home, I swear to God almighty that I will have a squat toilet installed in the bathroom!

The childish wonder that Delhi invoked remains with me.  Days seem longer now as I drink from the "Indian fire hose."  On the sleeper train, a song from U2 came on my IPOD and I found myself absently-mindedly scrawling the words in my journal... 
"The more you see the less you know
The less you find out as you go
I knew much more then, than I do now."
Only when I read what I had written did I think, "Wow.  How true."

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