[Originally posted on May 20, 2015. I apologize for the confusion — I had these blog posts recorded on my personal blog, which was not connected to the CASI one.]
Just as I predicted, the flight was pretty brutal. Fourteen hours of just sitting; I started getting restless after the third hour and I couldn’t fall asleep, so I spent most of my time watching comedy sit-coms that I thought I would never watch (although there were some old Friends episodes — much love to the rerun about Joey trying to speak French).
Nonetheless, we made it! Had some concerns that our plane was going to collapse under all of the air pressure, but why fret when we have hope, right? Customs was surprisingly smooth. Getting smacked in the face with 102 degree weather, not so much. It’s HOT here. Thankfully it’s dry heat, but geez…it’s something else. The drive to our hotel (and driving in general) was also quite something.
A few things Kevin noticed about commuting in India:
- More street bumps than streetlights. To be more specific, I saw two stoplights the past two days, one of which was broken.
- A lot of motorcyclists (I really wanted to make a point about India still having fewer motorcycle accidents than America, but that is horrendously false: http://zeenews.india.com/news/nation/india-no-1-in-road-accident-deaths_704455.html)
- There are basically only Japanese cars on the streets (Honda, Toyota, Suzuki, and Mitsubishi to be more specific). A few Volkswagen, one Ford, and one Porsche were spotted though.
- The lines to designate car lanes are purely for show. No one follows the lanes and sometimes roads split from two lanes into four or five out of nowhere.
- People honk more than they use blinkers.
- If I learned anything from growing up in New York, it’s how to j-walk.
Special shout-out to the All-American Diner. The first meal we had here was in a 1950/60s style diner that served American and Mexican food (lol) — the food wasn’t terrible though. Because we’re staying in New Delhi for only two nights, we tried our best to pack as many things into our to-do list. But again, one thing about India is scheduling only helps so much. India’s chill-level is beyond that of the States, NY, and the Penn bubble. People don’t seem to rush to anything, nor do they fret about making sure everything happens on time. We got tea and cookies during our meeting with one of our advisers; It was great. But enough of that, onto tourist-y things!
We were unable to visit the Taj Mahal because it’s pretty far from where we’re staying (Habitat Learning Centre) and we didn’t have the time. So instead, we ventured into the Red Fort, which was constructed basically by the same family. Story has it that the son of the man who built the Taj Mahal ordered for the establishment of the Red Fort, which the son used to banish the dad. Terrible, right? Eh, not so much. The place is ENORMOUS. There’s a picture below of just one of the small areas inside:
So after spending around an hour and a half getting harassed by a few people who aspired to be our tour guides, getting weird looks (a few people took pictures of me and my fellow travelers — lol), and avoiding dogs (I failed to mention earlier that there are dogs everywhere. You will see a dog at least once every two minutes – no exaggeration. They are everywhere, and we can’t touch them in fear of whatever disease or infection they might have. Did I mention that they were everywhere?), we visited the Khan Market. It’s known to be one of the more well-established commercial districts. We went shopping and ended up eating some delicious India food at some trendy cafe that really loved hardcore house music. The ambience was a little odd seeing how it was like 4PM but the place felt like a night club (turnup is forever?), but the food was absolutely awesome. The drinking age in New Delhi is 25, but we managed to play the foreigner card, so all was good (I hope I can post that).
After arriving back to our hotel, we visited super cool alumni from the Penn Club here at Delhi. It was awesome meeting people who graduated back in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s and high school students who will be entering as freshmen next year. Absolutely loved the community and I feel incredibly blessed knowing something like this is available all around the world. Special shout-out to one of the alums’ new apparel store (which is where we had our social event): Bhane. Check them out here: http://www.bhane.com/
We’re ending this day by winding down, acclimating to our jet lag, and getting ready for our next flight. Jacob and I have a flight at 9:20AM to Bangalore, which means having to deal with all the greatness that is India’s traffic from 7:30. Nonetheless, super stoked about the rest of the summer! Delhi has been nothing but amazing so far.
CAUTION: The following subject matter is a little heavier.
One quick issue that I hope to expand upon later is the immensely large disparity between the wealthy and the poor here in India. I thought it was terrible in the States. Well, it’s on a whole another level here. There are numerous homeless people, ranging from old women to babies less than an year old, and even limbless men, sprawled on the sides of the roads, while people driving in luxurious cars don’t even stop to look. There are a bunch of small children dressed in rags going around asking for money and food in the market, while members of the upper echelons of society debate over which designer brand store they want to shop at. It made me think about how these children don’t have much of a childhood because they’re practically full-fledged individuals trying to survive. My thoughts then digressed into the definition of childhood and what it means to be a child. Google says childhood is “the state or period of being a child” (you don’t say?). UNICEF states that childhood is “the time for children to be in school and at play, to grow strong and confident with the love and encouragement of their family and an extended community of caring adults. It is a precious time in which children should live free from fear, safe from violence and protected from abuse and exploitation.” In short, I think childhood is the time in a person’s life when he/she can be carefree and comfortable and not give two shits about what’s happening around them. Children should not be exposed to grave repercussions and survival risks on a regular basis. These children do not have the safety net of being able to make mistakes and learn from their errors because their lives hang on a thread and one wrong move can mean game over. Worse, they aren’t able to dream about their futures and act on those aspirations because they’re stuck worrying about their day-to-day. Even worse, this appears to be a systemic problem, and not an predicament spawned by poor choices. One of my friends said “that’s India for you,” but the very fact that this wealth disparity is taken for granted (and in some sense, accepted) is absolutely absurd. This was when my thought trail ended because I fell asleep on the ride back to our rooms. But hopefully, I can touch upon this later. If anyone has information related to this issue or potential solutions that they would love to share, please feel free to share. I would love to continue this discussion!