They say India is a place that defies explanation. It’s such a rich and colorful culture, and so totally different from ours, you’d need more than a couple weeks and a single blog post to capture the experience and essence of it.
Our introduction to India included an extensive walk through the old and chaotic streets of Delhi with our tour group. If only I could download everything we saw, sensed and smelled, but dealing with a camera at that point was out of the question. It took all my concentration just to navigate the streets without tripping or getting run over.
There are no crosswalks or stoplights, so crossing the street is like playing a game of Frogger. Flowing in every direction are cars and colorful rickshaws, bicycles and swerving motorcycles, buses and trucks, men pushing large wooden carts of produce and other goods, huge cows, wild dogs, and the occasional pig or monkey. When it comes to driving in India, the rules are more like suggestions. So you gather your courage, step out onto the street, and count on traffic to slow down and weave around you.
Amazingly, incredibly, it works without incident.
The people and traffic, the activity in the shops and food stalls – all flow together as part of the everyday routine here.
The wildest cab ride you’ve ever taken in New York City is a relaxing Sunday drive compared to a tuk tuk. You’re sure you’re about to hit that (fill in the blank with any object mentioned above) but the driver swerves or stops with barely a single inch to spare. Horn honking is taken to sonic heights you thought weren’t possible. Cows chew on garbage that litters the streets. And while it may be foreign to you, it’s just part of what makes up the fabric of the city.
Combine all this with the fact that you’re stared at like a celebrity circus sideshow freak and it’s more than a little intimidating.
Still, the culture shock does subside, and once you’ve settled in a bit a beautiful thing happens – you start to really see the people and take in the culture around you.
As for crossing the street, we figured out a little trick. Just look for a couple of old ladies to shadow. They don’t need your help. They have the confidence to walk slowly and calmly, armed with the wisdom that traffic will pause, and accustomed to the unique flow of life that surrounds them.