India blew me away, and exceeded my expectations. People I meet often tell me that India is both the best and worst experience of their life. In the media and via word of mouth India is perceived as a dangerous country; somewhere you will be robbed, stabbed or raped. A place where everyone is out to get you. But personally, I felt more unsafe at 7pm on the streets of Manhattan than I did at 1am on the streets of Delhi. In this post I will attempt to provide you with a different perspective. I hope to capture the wonder and delights, the quirks and idiosyncrasies; a small part of the essence that makes India so special, so India.
Three days in the desert
I spent a week in Delhi, much longer than I intended, while waiting to get a visa for Myanmar. Other than the spice market, and the nice Couchsurfer I met up with to eat the best Thali ever, Delhi was a bit lackluster.
My first day in India
After a some quick talking around the fact that I didn’t have an exit flight from India, I finally cleared customs in Chennai. I stepped out of the shabby airport and into a humid 35 degrees. I had organised to stay with a Couchsurfing host, but I needed a phone to contact him. The airport had no facilities, so I decided to head out. It was 2pm and I had no phone, no wifi, and no idea where I was going. I entered the throng of rickshaw drivers and earnestly proclaimed, “Take me to the internet!”
After some discussion on where the heck I wanted to go, I was dropped a couple of kilometers away in a nearby suburb. The driver pointed to sign that read that read ‘internet’ on the second floor across the street. As I climbed the dark stairwell, and made my way along the drab corridor with the peeling paint, I wondered if I were about the be robbed, or stabbed. Is this one of those situations people tell you to watch out for? I entered the internet shop and the woman pointed to two computers that looked like they would struggle to boot Windows 95, and asked me for my passport. Not convinced that I was going to be able to do anything with my whatsapp messages in this place, I left and devised a new plan: obtain a sim card.