Smelly Delhi

25.November 2009

India

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.

P1060046 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.

P1060025 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.

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9 Responses to “Smelly Delhi”

  1. Lisa Says:

    Perhaps India is not going be your favorite country on this long journey but I am finding that your writing is evolving and becoming more and more ‘Gillian’ and for the that I am grateful for India. You shine through on your blogs now and I feel you have opened yourself up more. I hope we connect in Asia as I feel there are many more unsaid stories to tell.

  2. Dawn Says:

    Ahhh….India! I can smell it just through your writing! My most challenging country for sure! I was ready to get back on the plane almost as soon as we arrived. But we hung in (I say we, but Sean really loved it there) and made it a month. Great people. beautiful sites, but it is really really hard to look past the poverty, filth, and smell. It is so in your face in India. Really hard. Good luck!!

  3. Akila Says:

    It is smelly. Absolutely. But, after a little while, it won’t bother you as much. Definitely head to the Lotus Temple while you are in Delhi. It is a gorgeous place and so peaceful. How long are you going to be in India? It looks like we aren’t going to be there until mid-January.

  4. Dirk Says:

    A good friend of mine spent a lot of time in India. Smells is one of the ways he described the place too. As well as food. He did say it was his favorite place to eat.

  5. Jeremy and Eva Rees Says:

    So curious to hear what you find outside the city… We vacillated on India quite a bit since we left home. During our planning, Eva was in love with the idea of India: the colors, the smells, the unfamiliar-ness of it all, but over the next few months and as a result of talking to other travelers online and on the road, we got quite scared of India. We recall most 4suitcases.com saying it was the “Olympics of Backpacker Travel!” & Paul Theroux joked about it being “The Turd World.” We scrapped our plans for north India as a result, and went instead for a tour of the south.
    Low and behold, we LOVED it. From what we heard, the south is much more laid back and less poverty stricken than the north. There are fewer touts, and English is widely spoken. The (Communist!) state of Kerala is at 100% literacy, for instance. It’s a different India. Maybe not the same garish flash and flaw of the north, but it was what we needed to fall for this country. In the future we will be back, and surely visit the north — but now we feel we’re ready, we understand what life is about here more. It was a good decision for us.
    Eva dwelled on your comment about taking pictures, and hopes you reconsider. She found India the most absurdly welcome place to whip out the camera. Anyone we asked kindly accepted having their picture taken, and many people on the street ASKED us to take a snap of them! We have 1000s of happy faces saved on our laptop now.

    • Gillian Says:

      Don’t worry everyone…it has gotten better. We’re in Rajastan now and are enjoying it much more. The Rajastan tour is a bit quicker than anticipated so it means we will have time to head south, which is exactly what we’re going to do. We’ll likely be in Goa for Christmas and then check out Kerala after that. We are really looking forward to seeing the differences from the north. Less poverty and garbage would be a good thing!

  6. Nathan Shipley Says:

    I’m with you on the taking pictures bit. There were a thousand pictures I half wanted to take when I was living in Mumbai but never did. That said, I’m also with Eva on the fact that when I did take pictures, people were totally cool about it and I’m glad I’ve got them now.

  7. Neeraj Says:

    India is certainly not for everyone – it’s very DIFFERENT than what you’re used to. It’s really up to you how you choose to remember India and your experience of it. Your attitude makes all the difference; whether you enjoy it or hate it – it’s up to you.

  8. Suhashini Thomas Says:

    Well, being an Indian, all I can say is – travel with an open mind. You might then find it easier to cope with the smell and the poverty which seem to be the biggest problems.
    I remember the first time I travelled to England (haven’t been to America yet); I marvelled at the organised roads and spotlessly clean environment but was sick to my stomach at the sight of the silly amount of wealth around. Guess your lot are more uniformly educated because of the money in everyone’s hands. With our past history, it will take us more time to get there. For now, it is romanticised especially cos it is different.