Monday, August 07, 2006

NEW DELHI, INDIA: We're back in blogging land, after a 2-week break from our KSG film project. Eleni was in Greece with family and friends; Scott in New York (for Boogs and Lisa's wedding), and Rome and Croatia; and I was in Bulgaria (visiting my Peace Corps buddy Maxwell Woods), and Greece.

We enjoyed our time away, but were excited to meet up in Athens and board a GULF AIR flight here to New Delhi, to begin the next leg of our documentary. (Oh, we had a layover in Bahrain -- yes, its a country, look it up; its also so hot that in the 12 meters we spent outside (between our plane and the terminal) we each lost six pounds of sweat. Seriously: Bahrain is an oven).

India. What can you say? A land where all the cliches become truth: mine-boggling contrasts, incredible diversity, and a frenetic pace make every move an exercise in sensory overload. We've only been here one day but are already feeling the pulse of an extraordinary country in our veins.

First impressions of Delhi: a harrowing 4 AM cab ride from the airport to our hotel. This driver was seriously crazy. At one point, he almost killed a mo-ped driver and a riskshaw driver (not to mention us) as he accelerated into traffic; then he cackled like some character out of a horror movie when we begged him to slow down.

The images that sped by us as we careened towards the city were hard to place in the morning light. People waking up from trash-strewn slums near the airport. A man taking a shower underneath a spigot in the middle of the street. A rickshaw driver taking a wizz on the side of the highway as his passenger patiently waited inside.

A day of walking around Old Delhi's markets confirmed our initial impressions of the city: pure chaos. It's almost impossible to comprehend how many people, cars, trucks, cows, horses, bikes, rickshaws, busses, and dogs use the same streets in this jam-packed city. Packed shoulder to shoulder with literally thousands of other people doing their business, we looked around and saw no order to the madness. But the people around us seemed perfectly content with the crazy pace of life here. There is obviously some underlying order to the chaos.

We ended our day at Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in all of India. Delhi -- before the partition of India and Pakistan that took place in 1947 -- was primarily a Muslim city and though today it is largely Hindu, it retains considerable Muslim influence. Jama Masjid was stunning: a courtyard big enough for 25,000 people to kneel and pray, surrounded by beautiful red stone walls and towering minerats, one of which we climbed up to see a beautiful view of the sunset, including the hundreds of kites that dotted the sky as children got in their last hours of play-time before the daylight faded.

Eleni and Scott are enjoying their first taste of India. For me, I'm enjoying time back here in Delhi, one of my favorite Indian cities during the time I spent here 3 years ago. We currently have a bet going (100 rupees) to see who can last the longest without getting "Delhi belly" (you can guess what that means).

Despite all the traffic and the chaos, New Delhi is a robust city with a lot to offer. Walk 50 feet with wide eyes in this city, and you can collect enough facial expressions to span the entire spectrum of human emotion. Much to see and much to learn.

We're here for a few more days and then off to Darjeeling, a mountain-stop village in NE India which -- along with being famous for its tea - is home to Noreen Dunne, the next KSG grad we're featuring in our documentary. Noreen is a college professor who also works with a charity she helped start called Hayden Hall, whch assists women and children in the Darjeeling area.


Here's our second clip from Delhi, our first impressions of the city...


Blogger Tihomir Tachkov said...

Hey i drank with this guy:) and i would say that Bulgaria is a much better country than India! (The guy who failed at the exam)

7:55 AM  
Blogger planetbillard said...

I'm beyond jealous. What a trip! Keep up the dispatches.

8:52 AM  

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