Well…we’re here. And it’s actually not as smelly as I had expected. Don’t get me wrong…it smells, but not everywhere, not all the time. Certainly the burning garbage in the street smells, and the ‘public toilets’ smell (no, I haven’t actually been in one…mostly they look like walls along which everyone urinates…unavoidable and gross), and the ever-present pollution smells but it doesn’t smell in our hotel (thanks to copious amounts of incense burned in the lobby) and that I am thankful for.
So far I have already seen almost every horrible thing I had imagined I would see in India…and it’s only been three days. Almost all the images from the books I’ve read, the movies I’ve seen (except the Bollywood movies) and the stories I’ve heard have shown themselves to be true.
Garbage is absolutely everywhere…cows roam the streets but miraculously do not get hit by the trucks, cars, taxis, auto-rickshaws, motorcycles, scooters, pedal-rickshaws, bicycles or hand-carts…men scatter among garbage ‘fields’ to poop in the morning…a man with no legs (walking on his hands) solicits alms on the train platform…there are beggars everywhere – young children in the streets and intersections, mothers with babies on the ‘sidewalks’, religious zealots roaming…people live in squats that I could not have imagined…I can taste the pollution.
I can’t take pictures. It seems wrong to whip out a camera to capture anything that I have seen…and besides who really wants to see pictures like that? Well, I took this one – showing the metal detector on the street at the start of the ‘bazaar’ area near where we are staying. We are made to walk through detectors like these at some of the monuments we have visited. They almost invariably beep…but no-one does anything about it. Makes me chuckle.
I feel hemmed in…straight-jacketed. Normally we would walk everywhere in a city, but here that is not possible. We tried but the traffic, pollution, poverty and odor made it a very uncomfortable walk.
We did visit some of the sights of the city. One day we took an auto-rickshaw to the Red Fort and another we took a day tour of the city to see some of the other sights. The temples are beautiful, calm and clean…the Ghandi sites are well maintained and very interesting and taking the bus through the city showed us what the rest of the city looked like (remarkably similar, although somewhat better than where we are staying).
This is certainly no romanticized India…so far, I don’t like it…we’ll see what happens outside of the city.