Day One: Sights + Serendipity in Delhi
I was woken up to by honks both mild and aggressive overlapping in the most unpleasant cacophony. I’ve had my fair share of jetlag in life, and this one seemed unusually potent, even though I spent the majority of the last 24 hours passed out across two flights (New York to Moscow and Moscow to New Delhi). Despite the crazy coming from outside, my circadian rhythms told me it wasn’t quite time to start the day, so we slept a few more comfortable hours.
Around 11am, we finally rolled our hungry bodies out of bed. Upon hearing that breakfast was over, we decided to start the day with some proper Indian lunch and climbed the top floor of Hotel Godwin Deluxe, a luxuriously vibed out but modestly priced hotel recommended to us by a friend. Despite the slight panic of not knowing how our stomachs would handle our first real Indian meal, we were pleasantly surprised. Delicious coffee with one sugar cube was soon followed by Mullgawtany soup (derived from the incredibly delicious Indian lentil, Dal), which culminated in a classic Paneer Tikha Masala with rice and nan. It was the perfect first supper.
It was early afternoon when we finished lunch and finally made our way outside into the world, to find a boy named Amit who we were told to meet via a friend from back home. Stepping onto the streets of Delhi gave me a taste of adrenaline that I never knew I had. The scene and chaotic energy were completely otherworldly and reminded me of a scene in Aladdin. A thin layer of smoky dust covered just about everything in sight. We barely made it a couple of feet when all of a sudden Wylie was stopped dead in his tracks by a boy holding a photo of us on his phone (the one I had posted on Instagram only a day ago). It was Amit, of all people! And to think that Delhi’s population is 30 million made that moment even more surreal (apparently our friend from home had texted Amit a photo of us just to make finding us easier – gotta love when that happens).
Amit helped us get dollars exchange to rupees, and in no time, we were off on our first adventure across town rickshaw style. Now for those of you who have never experienced a Delhi rickshaw before, brace yourselves because it is NO joke. Imagine every possible sounding honk, smell of motorbike and rickshaw fume with mild wafts of incense, and humidity level all penetrating your senses at once, with absolutely no breaks. New York’s traffic pales in comparison. On top of all that, at every traffic standstill or red light, children who weaved in and around the cars swarmed our rickshaw asking for money, a sad yet very real experience. What we thought would be a breezy 25-minute ride turned into what seemed like a one-hour car chase, and we were beyond happy to be on solid footing again.
Below are photos of what we discovered along the way – no solid plan, just trying to meander as much as possible in a city that we soon learned was not designed for safe pedestrian walking (sidewalks are not really a thing here, and if they are, motorbikes usually get first dibs). The J-walking here is on a different level.
It was a great first day that wore us out to the ground. There are so many questions about this place that still have yet to be answered, and to that I have to remind myself that we're just at day one.