“Do you like India Sir?”
Our Tuk-Tuk driver shouted to the four of us on the back seat of his ragged transportation vehicle. Shouting because he had to beat the unbeatable: New Delhi traffic noise.
“This is not normal Dad!” My son’s reaction on his first experience with India. There were cows and monkeys on the streets, all the vehicles were passing each other left and right, there was dirt everywhere, people sleeping on top of their cars, cars honking all over the place, and so much more. Grand chaos.
And we loved every minute of it. On our first day in Delhi we drove and walked around for a couple of hours but already got the full monty!
“Where are you from Sir?” I answered: ”Holland”. “Ah”, he returned, “very small country!”
Our second Tuk-Tuk driver was a Sikh and he took us to one of the the Sikh temples. Our daughter loved this part the most: an old man in a small carpeted room, reading from the holy, 500 year old Sikh book. 1435 pages, totally handwritten. Next to us, two Sikh were in the room listening. The old man was kind of silently singing when he read the stories he was basing his life upon. After finishing each page and before turning it, he gently cleaned it with a cloth.
We made a lot of friends in just two days. No, but honestly, many people just warmly welcomed us and have been very friendly. I also think our family have been photographed more in one day than we have in the last year or two! It seems we are the attraction of the day. We have spent at least half an hour in the top of the minaret at the Jama Masjid mosque (the biggest one in India) talking to a bunch of young men and taking pictures of each other. One of them was an architect who truly believed his work brings at least some joy to the poor people of India.
Another young man was explaining about an old saying expressing how people of India are happy with visitors of their country: “Guests are God”. Now how cool is that? Have you ever felt more welcome? He wrote it down for me:
Being God or not, visiting India is indeed sensory overload. That’s the only way to describe it. Because it’s almost impossible to write down what you feel, hear and smell when you are out in the streets. There is however one good way of experiencing this to the fullest: cycling.
We booked a tour with Delhi ByCycle and cycled through the narrow and dusty streets of Old Delhi. Starting at 6.30 am to beat the morning traffic and the heat, we started at Chandni Chowk street and, bang, right into the meat market where people where chopping meat while scaring away the crows picking it.
Crossing streets was a challenge, avoiding tuk-tuks and so-called killer busses. The smell of spices and dirt. Cows, monkeys, horses, goats, all is on the streets. It’s chaos! And this is daily life.
People were washing themselves on the streets, school kids waving from amazing miniature school busses (or actually bicycles). We wanted to capture it all, but it’s just impossible. Really impossible. You cannot describe it, you have to experience this at least once in your lifetime.
The kids did great on their bikes! They had to conquer the traffic, avoid dead rats on the road, holy cows (and of course holy shit) and people cooking on the street. On Chandni Chowk we watched a very long line of poor people on the sidewalk waiting for food and free help from a doctor (all provided by the Sikhs). The line passed one of the few MacDonalds restaurants in town, what a contradiction.
I can write on and on, everywhere you look it’s a surreal world for us. I am in the middle of it right now and it will take some time for me to understand the meaning of it all. This is real life kicking us in the butt!
Our next Tuk-Tuk driver drove us back to our hotel. Halfway he stopped for a minute or two. Got out a plastic glass and poured himself a whiskey with water. “Hmm, nice strong whiskey”, he said to himself. One gulp. He turned on the engine again and further we went.
Next stop: Jaipur, the Pink city.
Some more impressions of places and people we have seen. And this has just been the first two days…. If you can, go to India.