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    India: The Good Parts - The Vibrant, Crazy, and Massively Overpopulated Delhi

    At the Qutub Minar, Delhi

    Qutub Minar, Delhi

    Lots of travel pieces claim that places are "studies in contradiction." In fact, I'm certain I've even used the line somewhere along the way. That embarrasses me now because when I read it in a magazine, I'm sure what will follow will be lazy and not very interesting. Of course places are full of contradiction. Places are filled with people and people are happy, sad, hypocritical, violent, peaceful, beautiful, hateful, funny, dumb, brilliant, and, most of all, complicated. Duh. 

    Delhi is positively overflowing with people, not to mention the traffic, pollution, and filth--and the cows. So many cows. It operates on multiple levels, with the extremely wealthy and a wealthy-by-comparison middle class sitting atop the heap, with their maids and drivers catering to them round the clock and others in the merchant industry stopping by residential homes to deliver groceries or fresh flowers or take measurements for tailoring. Even doctors in India still make house calls. 

    Usually, the best part of a city for me is the part that is alive and modern--the energy of daily life moving around me. But honestly all over India, that part was a bit overwhelming. Jakarta, a city that has found a home in my heart, has about 8 million more people than Delhi. It's also crazy and dirty and loud, but somehow it manages to feel relaxed. Not so for Delhi. People there are going somewhere, constantly in motion, working or shopping or eating while standing next to a stall in a street market. The ever present honking of car horns is something my nerves never got used to. Luckily, I found my escape, although it was hundreds of years in the past. 

    Delhi has been through at least seven incarnations, and they all left something behind. I spent hours walking through the Mughal tombs of Humayun and Safdarjung, touring the Red Fort and Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi, wandering through the ruins around the Qutub Minar, and walking up and down relatively quiet, wide, tree-lined streets in New Delhi. The architecture is amazing. I am downright gobsmacked that such majestically gigantic structures could be built such a long time ago, without the modern technology that we've come to rely on. During the week, most of these places also have the benefit of being quiet, providing a peaceful break from the constant stress and noise of the rest of the city. 

    Historical Delhi is beautiful and fascinating. I wish I could have been there to see it in person. Modern Delhi is a city I think I could get used to, if i had to, but, at least for now, I'll stick to the laid back happy vibe of Southeast Asia and just be grateful that I had an opportunity to witness the crazy, people-infested, developing India for a very short time. 

    At the Dili Haat Market

    A trip to India wouldn't be complete without mehndi.

    Ghandi's Memorial

    Humayun's Tomb


    Inside the grounds of the Red Fort

    Jalebis - My new favorite tea time snack  



    Gorgeous pictures and I love the commentary.  That part of the world must be so fascinating.  How lucky you are to be experiencing it. (Love the market picture.  And all the rest, too.)

    Is that your hand with the mehndi?  It's beautiful. Is it done with henna?  How long does it take to dry?  How long does it last?  Why is it done on the palm and not on the back of the hand?  Or is it done on the back, too?

    Anyway. . .thanks for this.  Keep 'em coming.  (And get back on the damn masthead!)

    Thanks, Ramona. Yep, that's me with the henna. It took about a half-hour for the guy to do it and he did both the palms and the tops of my hands. We went to the local market my last night in Delhi. He did it was amazing. And he only wanted to charge me the equivalent of one US dollar. I gave him two. :) I had to wait about two hours before I could scrape it off and I had to be very careful not to smudge it. I'm a bit clumsy by nature, so it was tricky, but I managed. Overnight, the dye changed colors from bright orange to a deeper shade of brown. So cool. Here are some more pictures of the whole process:



    Amazing.   That takes real talent.  Way more than, say, an Andy Warhol. 


    I really, really like this - especially the pictures. Why did this article get no likes? Is dagblog readership down as a whole?

    A really good friend of mine was actually in India about the same time I was in the Pacific Islands. He was disappointed. I'm not sure what he expected but probably the difficulty of getting a media job in a place where media jobs should be so prevalent made things difficult.

    The pictures you show certainly do make it look like there is a lot of contradiction going on. I think it's like that everywhere though. Isn't that how capitalism works? God, go to Washington D.C. and you literally have the first black president living in the White House with black people living in the worst poverty I've ever seen only a couple blocks away.

    Yes, exactly what I meant about contradiction being everywhere. I think it's just become a travel writer's lazy go-to phrase. Thanks for the positive feedback. I have more pictures and more stories to come. The things I liked the most about India were the things I didn't expect or know about before I went--like the historical sites. Something else that was puzzling was that so many people didn't speak English. I know that there are like a zillion languages spoken there, but outside of India there is an impression that everyone there speaks English. Everyone in the middle class and upper class does. But those are not the people that you interact with when you need transportation or want to buy something while traveling. 

    You D.C. example is an excellent one. Places get defined for the broader world by the people who travel outside of those places. So, tourists go to Washington and come away talking about the northwest part of the city. Indians who immigrate or travel to the west are generally from the upper classes, so in their experience everyone that matters in India does speak English. It's curious. The poor are sort of forgotten. However, although it is certainly pronounced and noticeable in India, I think they're forgotten everywhere.

    Why did this article get no likes?

    I'm not aware dag has the ability and/or maybe desire to 'click' for 'like' on posts.

    It must still be in the air whether or not Dag is a homogenous entity or not.

    mendhi looks cool

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