Time and again, people warned me about the absolute chaos that is New Delhi. I heard them and heeded their warnings – that’s why I took a group tour in India – but still I was unprepared for the utter madness that’s in the city.
Driving is not for the faint of heart. I can’t begin to understand the rules of the road here. It’s a press the accelerator and pray kind of system. It’s constant gridlock, constant honking, and just constant everything.
And then there’s the smog. I have sneezed more in India than anywhere else in the world. My allergies have flat-out rejected the country.
For our first day in New Delhi, we started with a walking tour of one of the poorer sections of New Delhi, led by a former street kid. It was interesting and illuminating, though it was strange for me. When I travel, I generally try not to see poverty as a tourism attraction or something to gawk at. This was a very respectful tour, but it still felt quite odd to be walking around a slum with a camera in hand. And certainly disrespectful to take any selfies – so no pictures from this part!
When you look up, the electric wiring is so overwhelming it’s a miracle the whole city has not gone up in flames yet. The wires run every which way, and apparently only the electricians in the slums know what connects to what. I cannot even imagine how they do their work.
The level of poverty was certainly eye-opening – and has been throughout India. The number of people who come up to you just begging for food or money (money really – no one seems to want actual food) is heartbreaking and shocking.
After the slum tour, we went on to the biggest mosque in New Delhi. Because of their feelings about women, they gave us robes on entrance to cover up – they were huge and hilarious! We were able to climb up into one of the spires, and the view over Delhi was amazing! After climbing all these stairs – here and other places – I have to admit that I feel like I’m getting quite the workout on this trip! Elevators are not really a thing abroad, at least where I’ve been.
The mosque itself was just giant – apparently over 25,000 people can fit in there for special occasions and festivals. The spires were so tall, and the detailing was so intricate – the whole thing was just impressive. It’s been fun seeing so many different religions ways of worshipping!
After that, we went on to a Sikh Temple. This was cool! The Sikhs are all about protecting all of humanity, so they have a food kitchen that will feed anyone who walks up for free, no questions asked, every day. They feed tens of thousands of people each day – and are one reason the street kids and beggars want money more than food. For food, they can go to the Sikh temple. In fact, one of the things our tour guide told us on the slum tour was that when he was a street kid he begged money and used it for movies and drugs – because for food he really could go to the Sikh temple (and did whenever he was actually hungry!).
My allergies definitely went haywire upon arriving in New Delhi – the pollution is massive, though apparently it’s getting much better. They used to spend all day every day burning trash, but the new Prime Minister has actually changed a lot of that and made the trash service much better. So it’s apparently way better than it used to be, but especially coming from the untouched-ness of Myanmar, it was overpowering!
New Delhi is unlike any other city in the world, and definitely not for the easily overwhelmed!