It has been six days since I arrived in Delhi, and three since I started my internship at LEAP. After what was the scariest flight of my life I was received in the airport by a friendly driver with whom I communicated with a mix of broken english and sign language as he tried to dodge the Delhi traffic. It was raining that night so the calming smell of damp Delhi and the relatively cool weather tricked me into thinking that the heat was not going to be so terrible after all. He suggested that I watch a couple of Bollywood movies (that may or may not exist according to my investigation), and try some of Delhi’s delicacies. Until then, Delhi seemed a lot less scary than I had envisioned. He drove me to the Habitat where I joined Kristi and Bill, had dinner, and had a good night’s rest.
Since then, the three of us have been getting used to life in Delhi. On Monday we met with our boss Ankit at a posh market called Khan Market nearby the LEAP office. The market has a mix of Western stores and local stores, restaurants, and services. During the past week we tried many restaurants in the market since we could only have lunch there. We had the best Roomali Rolls at Khan Chacha for about $3 US bucks a piece (shoutout to the CASI survival guide that included this place as one of the best places to eat), a delicious first lunch at a fancy North Indian restaurant, and some saucy spicy noodles at Mamagoto. We also tried Ankit’s favorite Momo (they are Nepalese dumplings) place. It was one of those experiences when everything tells us that it might not be such a good idea, but once you take the first bite you immediately know it was a great decision (which was later reaffirmed by us not getting sick). I must admit, however, that I am still getting used to their use of pepper and spices in most dishes. The first time I was unpleasantly surprised was when I took my first sip of a cucumber lemon mint juice that actually tasted like lemonade made with ham water (yes, ham). Yesterday, a similar thing occurred when I ordered a fresh fruit platter that had sprinkled pepper and spices on it that made it very hard to eat. I really hope to get used to this. All in all, our culinary experience in India has been fantastic. I’m sure Bill will treat you to some of his pictures on mouth watering dishes.
The people that we have meet have also been very kind and welcoming to us. We have been lucky to meet people of around our age. Unlike what we thought, they enjoy much of the same things that I like for example. We have been really surprised by their fascination with rock music, el Che, and a more ‘edgy’ and very American lifestyle. Service in India is also very high quality. I have had personalized service while trying to find the perfect Indian outfit that cost me a little under 15 USD. I cannot think of any other place where you would get personalized service for a product of that value. I had always thought of the US as having exceptional Customer Service, but it has now become India without a doubt. I can say with certainty that I haven’t meet a single person that has been rude, unwelcoming or mean.
As we have come to see, New Delhi is much like any other big metropolitan city with a little bit of Indian Spice. We have seen a city with typical chain restaurants, efficient public transportation (including a top notch metro system that doesn’t make us miss SEPTA at all!), congested streets where the rule of law is the survival of the fittest, and many historical reliques nested around the city. On the flip side, these chain restaurants serve paneer burgers and indian vegetarian food, women wear very colorful clothes (both western and traditional clothing), and very extreme levels of poverty can been seen everywhere. Despite these differences, New Delhi can be thought of a more chaotic version of New York in India. Old Delhi, however, is much more similar to what we had expected. Narrow and crowded alleys, a hectic pace, and loud noises coming from everywhere. Since this has been the most ‘different’ experience that we have had, I want to leave it for a future blog post so I can describe it in more detail.
I think that in all we had (I speak for the Leap interns) prepared ourselves for an India that was not western at all. We had expected to wear only Indian traditional clothes, use only squat toilets, and eat only Indian food. However our experience has been markedly different and much more cosmopolitan. We are curious to hear from the other CASI interns to see if they have had similar impressions, or if there expectations have really come true. Like Kristi wrote, I too most certainly had many misconceptions about India.