One of the assignments for my class is to write a few blog posts. These are more formal for my class, but they’re here if you are interested :)
Greetings from Delhi, India! Upon my arrival to the subcontinent, I expected to be welcomed with warm weather. However, Thursday was the coldest day in Delhi in 44 years, since the city began keeping records in 1969. The high temperature was 49.64°F. To combat the cold, people build small fires on the side of roads, burning whatever refuse they can find nearby. The city is enveloped by smoky smog from both the fires and pollution from motor vehicles.
The fog is just one element of the chaotic culture that is found here. It is truly a diverse city as people in Western apparel and saris pass each other on the street, a slum lies across the road from an upscale shopping mall, ancient palaces and tombs are found near office buildings, and traffic moves very haphazardly. We have travelled all around the city to visit different companies and historical sites, and have had lots of opportunity to see the city and to people watch from our tour bus. The best part of the bus is that its windows are not tinted so passersby notice the large vehicle full of primarily white American students and often wave to us. Windows are not tinted as a safety precaution so anything happening on a bus can be seen by the surrounding traffic and pedestrians.
India has the most chaotic roads I have ever been on. I would require a good sum of money to risk driving on the roads here. Though only 5% of the population owns cars, there are many vehicles on the road, especially in the evenings. Cars, trucks, and buses are accompanied by many motorbikes, auto rickshaws, and other small trucks that weave between the larger vehicles. Though lines are painted on the roads, as they are in the U.S., they are largely disregarded by motorists. Thus, drivers honk their horns frequently to communicate with each other. All of the perceived chaos on the roads would logically lead to many collisions, but I have yet to see any crashes. This can mostly likely be attributed to the fact that vehicles are usually moving at relatively slow speeds. There seem to be efforts to curb these driving habits as I have seen billboards with the slogan “lane driving is sane driving” and many vehicles painted with “no honk” on the back.
It is easy to become overwhelmed by all of the traffic, bustle of people, colorful sites, honking, and yelling. However, I am really enjoying my stay so far. Time moves in a different way in India from the U.S. The concern given to it reminds me greatly of Africa as people are rarely in a hurry and not as worried about completing a task efficiently and quickly as just finishing it when they see fit. Living in this type of world is a good experience for any Westerner as it forces you to slow down and lets you take in some of the world surrounding you. Though we once had to sit at an intersection that lacked a stoplight for about 30 minutes because the police directing traffic were taking a tea break, the fluidity of Indian time has primarily benefited us. Many of the people we have visited at companies, despite their myriad of responsibilities, have given us hours of their time to talk about the work they do and answer all of our questions. An architect we met with, Goonmeet Chauhan, spent all day with us talking about the mall he designed, giving us a tour, eating lunch with us, and chatting with us about India. In sum, India is an incredible place with inspiring people. Though, as Westerners, it is easy to say how a developing country should become more like us, the modern world; the culture here can inform and teach us even more about our own culture and the way we see things than we can teach it.