Welcome to Delhi

16 Jul

It’s 6am, and it’s already 30 degrees outside. You’re in the backseat of a car, and the driver’s idea of “air conditioning” is ensuring all the windows are rolled down. You’re not wearing a seatbelt – not because you’re rebellious, or even because seatbelt wearing is not mandated by Indian law, but because the seatbelt is missing. As your driver takes you down the highway, on the way to the Agra bus stop, he pulls over suddenly, hops out, and walks down the road. You wonder to yourself, is he going to help out the truck driver who’s clearly stranded on the side of the road? How nice of him! …no, he keeps walking. He’s in the middle of the road now, staring at something, picking it up. He returns to the car, doing a quick check of the underside. As he hops back in, he casually places that “something” in the passenger seat, removes a wrapping of gaffa tape from the hand brake, then continues driving down the road. After a while, he calmly announces “the brakes failed…”.
Yep, Welcome to Delhi.
Lesson #1: Keep Calm.
On my “backpacking adventure” in India a month ago, I was faced with a number of life’s important lessons. The first of which is too keep calm, because there’s just too much that’s beyond my control.
In truth, the lesson started about 18 hours earlier. Whilst still in Pune, on the day of our departure, I had learned that the plans to travel right up into the Himalayas had fallen through, and I had to cancel over half of the bookings. I was upset with myself, not too happy with the travel agents, and in the middle of an emotional breakdown. With the support of my wonderful partner, we were able to redesign the trip in a last minute rush, and even make it to the airport on time.
I had almost calmed down, when we discovered that the cab to pick us up from Delhi airport had been and gone, on account of our delayed flight. We were left waiting late into the night for the driver’s return – after all, they expected us to pay for his earlier visit – whilst I closely clutched our belongings and warily eyed everyone and anyone with suspicion.
The arrival at the hotel didn’t do much to calm me down. I was tired and cranky, the air too hot and too thick, and yet we had to wait for our passports to be scanned, amongst other dull proceedings. Finally, we were led to a somewhat-air-conditioned-room for a dreary 4 hours of sleep.
Things were not off to a good start, and I was definitely stressed. Yet the car ride that morning triggered a change. We had no seat belts, were relying on faulty brakes, and I was okay. The realisation that my stressors had all been quite out of my control left me without the ability to panic. I kept calm and, suddenly, the adventure was enjoyable.
Lesson #2: Go Your Own Way
One of the most irritating things about being a tourist in India is being targeted by touts. They might hustle you into their rickshaw, or personally walk you into a shop, mysteriously steer you into pricey souvenir stores (though sometimes not a bad thing), and away from the more interesting experiences of walking through the markets or pretending to be an ordinary citizen.
The store keepers of the touts’ shops are politely worse. Short of actually demanding that you buy things, they turn sales into an art form. Leaving a store empty handed requires a lot of determination, patience and tact. If I ever want to study sales tricks, I plan to watch these guys at work for a day or two.
The lesson learned is to pave your own way, which sometimes leads to doing the opposite of what the touts suggest. When aiming directly for the main bazaar in Delhi, we actually had one such tout tell us not to go there because of a “fight” that had broken out there a day before. It was “unsafe” and we would apparently do better to follow him to the store of his choice. Another tout followed alongside us, offering handy tips to scare us away from the market such as “wear your backpack across your chest”. Sure, this might have seemed like reasonable advice, but I assure you that the safety of our beings, as well of our belongings (particularly our wallets!), was much more secure amongst the confining backstreets and alleyways of the market, than amongst the touts and tourist shops *Phew*. Had we followed their advice, we would’ve missed out on the sights and sounds of a real market, the much better prices, and the quaint experience of meeting with a lost backpacker looking for a last minute budget hotel – what a character!
Lesson #3: Resorts in-the-middle-of-nowhere Are Probably A Bad Idea
Particularly for more than one night.
This part of our adventure was hastily patched together after our cancelled Himalayan expedition. It featured two nights near the Jim Corbett reserve, in the hopes of arranging an elephant safari. The resort was so out of the way that we’d driven past it by about a half hour before realising we had little idea where it was. Once getting there, we also realised we were so isolated from anything of interest, that beyond the 2 hour safari, we would have nothing else to do.
Whilst it was a delight to escape the noises and crowds of everwhere-else-that-is-India, the lack of real adventures left something to be desired.
Lesson #4: Have Fun
Originally titled “It’s Okay to Fail”, thanks to my stressful experience, but already covered in this post, accepting failure is also about having fun. Although the “adventure” had many failures and underwent many late changes, it was still successful, in the sense that it really was an adventure. Particularly the part where we got engaged at the Taj Mahal *swoon*.
So go on, have fun, I dare you.

One Response to “Welcome to Delhi”

  1. Jenine Beekhuyzen July 16, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    Ooooooooh congrats!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: