India, Part 1: Introduction
IntroductionWhile having breakfast in the hotel restaurant in New Delhi, I noticed two women shooting glances at my plate and started to smile. I realized they were looking at the stack of fruits on my plate and fascinated by how much I could eat of the round brown fruit. We invited them to join us at our table. One of the women said, “Chico”. I knew what that fruit was called because I had it before in the Philippines and Thailand. The women introduced themselves as doctors from Goa and were staying at the hotel while attending a medical conference in New Delhi. I told them that I was a bit familiar with ‘Indian sweets’ because I worked with software engineers and managed a group of programmers from India. When I mentioned that it was our second day at the hotel and that we wasted our first day waiting for the maintenance people or “engineers” (as called by the hotel manager) to fix the water and air-conditioning issue, the topic of conversation changed from desserts to education and the profession.
My sister and I arrived two days before the organized tour group. After checking into our hotel, we went to get ready for lunch. As I turned the faucet on, I noticed dirty water (in gray color) coming out of the faucet. The two ‘engineers’ that were sent to our room resolved the water issue by putting filters to the faucet and the shower head. Not only the water, but also the supposedly “white” towels and linens were in the shade of gray. So it was enough for me to assume that the big hotels, especially big brand name hotels in places like India, have their own water filtering system and that the non-filtered water is not safe for foreigners.
Our hotel was located near the parliament area and government offices, not far from the India Gate, supposedly very safe for tourists. When I looked out the window, I saw nicely dressed people coming out from the building across our hotel, just coming from work (I suppose), joining the crowd at the bus stop.
We then decided to venture out and eat dinner at a local restaurant. We walked the main street lined by trees. The sidewalks were spacious with plenty of room for the rush hour crowd until we came to a sidewalk with many vendors selling anything and a few beggars in front of the store doorways. Then up an obscure alley of a side street, there were people squatting or sitting on small stools, eating naan or some kind of bread and potatoes not minding the exhaust and the noise from the honking cars. I found crossing the streets very challenging and dangerous where I saw cars coming from different directions and not giving way to pedestrians. We were able to cross the street safely, but the hot humid air combined with the automobile exhaust was just too much to take in one day. We decided to go back and eat dinner at the hotel and spend the following day at the hotel SPA. I realized that we needed a local guide to help us navigate through the streets of India especially on such a short trip. I also came to the realization how “sanitized” we’ve become in the US that it would take some time for us to be acclimated to the air and water in India.
I had assumed I knew what to expect from India, but I was wrong; I underestimated it. I was not prepared to see what I saw. Some of the scenes I saw were beyond comprehension that it's not fair for me to make any social comments. I could only report the visual information (sensory overload) I received during the short trip. Here's a one-minute video I stitched together from my trip to India that seemed to have passed in a flash. (Click the thumbnail below to watch the video)
to be continued...