We are writing these following lines with no more than fifteen Indian sunsets on our eyes. Nonetheless, when it comes to travelling, time tends to be an incorrect measure. Experiences and intensity actually create a far more accurate barometer.
Although we have only stayed 3 days in New Delhi, it was one of the most intimidating experiences we have ever faced.
Our accommodation was in the middle of Paharganj, a crowded and poor area of the city. After a 20-minute taxi from the airport to the Delhi streets, we could feel the hotel was getting closer.
Just by looking at the window, like a child who sees something for the first time, we were both quite frightened. So terrifying different, in the middle of that entire zigzag. By each street we passed we just hoped not to be the one.
However, all of a sudden the driver stopped and pointed to a narrow and dark street where no car could fit.
Our hotel, Tashkent Palace, was around 200 meters inside.
In a rush, scared and anxious at the same time, we got out of the car and one of us was almost hit by a tuk-tuk. The horn shouted in our ears and in an instant all the surrounding eyes were fixed on us.
We walked rapidly into the narrow street and the transfer drove away. Suddenly we were on our own. There were cows and dogs wandering, people lying on the floor, and daily workers everywhere. Their look was amazingly intense and it felt liked we were being thoroughly examined by our future neighbours.
It took us about 20 seconds to arrive to the hotel doors but it seemed like 20 minutes.
Once standing in front of the hotel we realised the doors were closed and there were no lights inside.
People were wandering around us and we begun to freeze.
After knocking several times a man woke up and welcomed us inside...
We are telling this episode once for us it is the best description of how small one feels when having the first contact with India. It is intimidating, powerful and one will feel himself unaided.
For a western person the cultural shock is immense. Almost everything is different.
The best way to describe the chaos of Paharganj is by imagining an enormous super market with no roof, narrow corridors where thousands of people, animals and any type of vehicle circulate in every direction.
Now, instead of stores, one can see people doing all kinds of work on the floor or in a tiny slum stand. From selling any type of food, to hair dressing, ironing clothes, car repairing, technology fixing… Literally everything can be found in the middle of Paharganj.
Trash, tones of trash mixed of animal and people's excrements, are a threat to every shoes. Soon we realised that the fog was also a consequence of the intense pollution Delhi has.
The combination of all the trash with the pollution creates a variety of nauseating smells. Likewise, while walking through all the chaos, spices sweeten the odour, whereas the sweat driven by an enormous amount of heat creates all kinds of different aromas.
As if it was not enough, the noise is from another world. The horns replace the traffic lights and thousands of vehicles pass by at the will of their drivers.
Delhi is something else. A whiter skin drifting within the Old and New Delhi streets under the looks of all the surroundings creates an unreliable atmosphere.
In fact, in the beginning every step we took was calculated, with an unprecedented caution which resembles crossing a war zone.
Transportation is impossible. If in need to take a longer path, suddenly more than ten drivers are shouting numbers at you in hopes to take you from A to B. This is where the so famous scams begin to happen and even the best negotiator will be deceived. If they know this mantra from birth, we are badly taught.
In fact every time you are ready to spend some money bear in mind you will pay more than it was indeed needed.
But this is India, not western countries where every price is established. If you are not born there you will be overpriced in every purchase.
However, as time passes by, we become more relaxed and we start to understand that all the looking is driven mostly by curiosity, the bargaining is part of their culture, and the dirtiness is their reality, not their choice.
We began to see kindness in the smallest gestures. People ask us to take selfies with them as a reminder, our body hair fascinated entire families and often the lack of English is replaced by a friendly smile.
India has a wide variety of realities. From highly spiritual regions, where the Golden Temple arises as their crown jewel, to trekking paths in the northern cold, the immense mixture and chaos of metropolis, to the coloured cities of Rajasthan that we will still explore, as well as the beaches of Goa and the nature of Munnar.
It is like a world within a country.
However, the biggest disclosure concerns to people. Indians are kind, curious and understanding.
The experience would not be the same without them. They are the ones who create the culture and enrich every traveller. Actually, for every person that somehow tried to scam us, there were other ten who were there to help us.
In New Delhi train station we met a Russian fellow traveller.
When asked why he travelled for so long, he looked at us, smiled and simply replied:
“I travel… I travel because one day travelling is like one week or a month in your normal life.”.
In fact, for us, it made all the sense. It has been less than 15 days, but we are far richer, curious and fulfilled than before. The amount of stories that we have collected is astonishing and now we feel more vivid.
Only 15 days are gone… We can only dream of the next 15 ones!