Northern India Part I: New Delhi
My temporary retirement from travel was broken by India. And like eating a greasy shawarma to break your fast, India awakened my senses and my bowels. Nothing could have prepared me for a country that is at once colorful, filled with despair, sweet smelling and filthy, holy and chaotic. I loved and hated my time in Northern India, but like any trip I photographed the good and bad, ate from street vendors and rode public transport while watching a remarkably unique landscape of people, cows and temple dotted history unfold before my eyes.
New Delhi acted as bookends to our travels in Northern India, so that is where I will begin. Never have I felt the impact of a city upon arrival like in India. We were surrounded before even leaving the airport. “Taxi!” “chai, chai!” “Where you go?” This was not the usual “Let’s charge the tourist a bit more for a rickshaw ride.” This was different, reckless, hungry, in your face and I felt a familiar fear of being an un-seasoned traveler considering catching the next boat back to more familiar waters.
Our first Metro ride caused every alarm in my nervous system to fire as I held my bag tightly to my chest and felt desperate eyes. A man tapped my shoulder. I was on-guard and ready to use the skills I learned in college during “ I am woman, hear me roar” club. And then he spoke. “Where are you from?” I stared blankly. “Have you been in India long?” I managed a “no.” “Welcome, I wish you a pleasant stay.” I retreated inside my scardy-cat self, looked around the metro, and saw no harm, just curious Indian people, on their way to work, as irritated by the close quarters as I was.
As days passed in India, I faced the same humility and took my experience on that first metro ride as a reminder to not judge too harshly. Sure you can find expat friendly enclaves such as Hauz Khas Village, but as the masala chai pulsed through my veins I started to see India for the vibrant, keeper of ancient history and kaleidoscope of color that it is. Delhi may be an overwhelming first stop but a worth-while introduction to a country as uniquely rich as India, and a convenient jumping off point for finding all the peace you will ever need in the North.