By Claude Owen
As this was the first full day in India and the only full day in Delhi, I was stoked to be today’s leader. Rather than the travelling that had occupied the day of our arrival, or the next day when we would hop on a plane to fly to Port Blair, I could focus solely on where I was in the moment, instead of where I was going to be.
Our day was spent exploring the city, and while doing so, the cultural differences and—to my surprise—similarities, were highlighted. This is the least city-like city I’ve ever been to, if that makes sense—the streets are crowed, but on the roofs of buildings the skyline is barren. We were cautious not to waste our precious hours in Delhi, hitting several locations that easily could have occupied a day in themselves. We visited the spice markets—a sprawling complex located in an abandoned brothel; a Jain temple in a back alley—a thousand year old structure whose appearance had been kept relatively the same since the start of the Mogul era; and ate the most delicious butter chicken Karim’s, a hidden restaurant where us taller folks couldn’t even stand up straight, just to name a few. In every location, there were some strange aspects none of the westerners would have expected—the girls being required to wear coverings over their clothes to preserve their modesty in the second largest mosque in Asia serves as a model instance. But, there were other parts that were surprisingly familiar—such as much of the population speaking and street signs being written in English, for example—things that I expected to be befuddled by but was delighted to find that I wasn’t.
While on a school trip to China two years ago, everything was completely foreign to me; I had no previous Asian experience to rely on navigating the country. In India though, I’ve found myself easily able to adapt to everything I immediately viewed as strange and I have not let these cultural differences detract from the immersive experience. The drivers here are chief among these—I’ve never quite seen anything so chaotic as the driving. This is probably due to several different factors, like maturity, order, and simply world location, but regardless they’ve added up to a fantastic start to the trip.
If only I could say the same thing for jet lag.