When someone describes the traffic in India, you’ll probably hear them say something along the lines of, “bumper to bumper” and “all over the place”. To my surprise, that appears to be unequivocally true. Now, I had admittedly seen photos of Indian traffic prior to my arrival. In the photos, you can see cars, auto rickshaws, regular rickshaws, and bikers often all over the place with seemingly no organization. Let me be the first to tell you that the google search images don’t lie. During a traffic jam, I find it unbelievable that anyone is able to move at all. Lanes are seemingly nonexistent when there’s a lot of traffic. Although, people do use turning signals every now and then.
Even more startling, yet somewhat reminiscent of bad drivers in the US, most drivers here choose to brake only upon reaching the minimum amount of distance required to stop. I’m not sure if the Indian style of “finding every nook and cranny to pass the person in front of you” gets you to your destination faster than the American style of organized rule following. 😄 Either way, it’s a point of interesting contrast that I’ve found humorous, at times.
Before I experienced this driving madness, I arrived at the New Delhi airport. I arrived shortly after seven in the evening and there was hardly anyone in the place. I expected far more “hustle and bustle” for the second largest city in the world, in terms of population size. But, don’t you worry. Reality of the big city sunk in as soon as I left the airport terminal. I was greeted by my driver in a separate area, but when I stepped out of the terminal, there were hundreds of people, presumably waiting for people arriving. The heat, humidity, and haze hit me like a smack in the face. There was an odor that I can hardly explain. We made it to the parking garage and began to embark on our journey to the SM Sehgal Foundation campus in Gurugram, India.
I was submerged into the realities of Indian traffic and night life. At first I was annoyed at the use of car horns, but I realized how necessary they are when passing other cars. Of course, horns are used to tell the car in front of you to go, but more often than not, they’re a necessity for telling cars around you that you’re passing or need room or you’re too close to someone else. Seat belts are also rarely worn. An employee here at SMSF jokingly said, “[Indians] think [they’re] invincible”.
Outside of the airport, I saw a part of the city that seems to truly define the typical Indian city. An Indian man I sat next to on my near-fourteen hour flight said that I would notice how different cities are organized than as seen in the US. At the time, I wasn’t really sure what he meant. I soon understood the ways Indian cities seem to just boom in a short time, leaving small and desolate buildings next to modern high rises. I’ve seen quite a few abandoned buildings that seem to have simply halted construction. Even the city of Gurugram, I’ve been told, was nothing more than a village twenty years ago. It’s now a city of close to one million and busy business, but is still home to abandoned buildings, dirt lots, and disorganized city planning.
That night was certainly overwhelming. I admit, I thought to myself, “What have I gotten myself into?” However, I made it through the first night! The facilities here, whether it be the office space, flatlet (dorm), or cafeteria, are all top notch. Food made by Ram (the cook) and Laxman always tastes phenomenal. I will say that I don’t really know what any of it is, but the typical lunch or dinner consists of rice, dal (usually meant to mix with the rice, I think), roti (tortilla-like bread), and a starchy vegetable/potato mix accompanied by a plate of cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Ram even gave me a mini Snickers bar at lunch yesterday. I immediately started craving every candy bar on planet Earth. It was so enjoyable. It was one of those moments where you take a bite, close your eyes and savor it. You never knew how happy a Snickers bar could make someone, huh?
Food aside, I adjusted to the time zone much quicker than I thought I would. In part, I think the twenty-four hours of travel and little sleep made it extremely easy to fall asleep once I made it to my flatlet a little after 9PM, coinciding well with the time zone. Today marks my eleventh day here, but I thought I should let y’all experience my arrival with me. I hope my account above gave you some sense of what my leaving the United States for the first time was like.
I realize this post may feel a bit lengthy, so if you’re still reading down here, I applaud you and thank you. If you want to learn more about my time here in India, stick around and perhaps subscribe by email if you’re so inclined. Feel free to check out my photos seen on the right side of this page (if you’re on a mobile device, keep scrolling to see my photos)! Peace and blessings.