MiscSouth Asia

‘Namaste’ and first impressions from Delhi

posted by Stu 0 comments


In India there is about half a million different languages spoken, with the most popular being Hindi. That may be true for the rest of India but in Delhi it seems the most widely spoken language is English. Everything is written in English and often only English and even people I hear chatting away are speaking English. Of course India has strong ties with the English language from way back when one day we just turned up and decided India belonged to England.
First impressions – I was told India would be “an assault on your senses” It isn’t, it is GBH on them, I’m talking about attempted murder. It is probably the dirtiest place I have ever been (and I’ve been to Cairo) It stinks, from putrid foul smells to the most beautiful and teasing smells of incense which is burning everywhere. Thankfully the incense seems to hang in the air and mixed with fresh cooked local food made and served by the roadside a unique atmosphere is created.
Like most countries outside the Western World there are no rules on the road other than start to move over and if no one sounds their horn it is safe to do so – That said the Indian Taxi driver this morning must have had ninja skills, on the one hand I couldn’t fathom how he fitted his 3metre long car into 1metre gaps on the other hand he almost wiped us out about ten times. Still, I had a little chuckle when he introduced himself to me saying he was called Sanjay. Particularly when I’ve emailed about 5 Sanjays recently who have been hotel managers. If you stood by the road and asked 10 random men and women what their name was I bet at least 9 would be Sanjay.

Now a few things I’ve picked on already about Delhi. Firstly manners don’t exist – Don’t take it as a personal insult no one says thank you or please. Just a smile if you are lucky.
The tuk tuk driver will let you name your price. I went from Delhi Rail station to Connaught Place earlier and the price was 30 rupees, in a rush I never bothered to haggle, given that its about 2 miles and pavements are near impossible to walk on I thought that what works out as about 40pence to be fair. We found a Pizza Hut, had a munch and then on the way back I asked how much the same journey was (different driver) he said 40 rupees because the traffic was increased. I said 10, he moaned about how he had kids to feed and said 30, I said 20. He said he would be losing out, I said ok and didn’t even have time to turn away before he was ushering us in for 20rupees. Back at the hotel I asked what the going rate was and I was told about 30rupees. When I mentioned I paid 20rupees he said that the driver had probably been sat waiting for a fare all day and will have made only a tiny profit of hat works out as pence. It then dawned on me the desperation of some people. It reminded me of a taxi driver in Vietnam last year who claimed he worked a 30 hour day for about $5.
Now that I know the sort of price range, ill haggle without bleeding them dry. They are trying to make a living and whilst it would be easy to manipulate that, in my opinion it is downright nasty and there needs to be a mutual respect – But don’t feel too sorry, those less confident will and do literally get taken for a ride by them.

In terms of the city – we are staying in an area called Parharganj, it is 5 minutes away from the rail station and the so called back packer area (although I’ve yet to see more than a handful of Western looking people) It goes without saying that backpacker areas more often charge the lowest costs to stay and are usually in budget areas where not only can you get a new wife for a pound but a wealth of information for the price of a smile.
Delhi is a dusty city, dirt and smog clings to your sweat and makes you feel grubby. The streets have yet to be rebuilt from the Second World War and buildings are literally crumbling to pieces. Bare wires hang out of walls and the floor is a mixture of rubble and glass to rubble and shards of metal and scraps of rubbish.

Some people will find their first impressions of Delhi are that it is a daunting, intimidating and dirty city – and it is. But let’s see what lies beneath the surface 🙂

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