Incredible !ndia is the slogan you read and see everywhere – the slogan of the government’s official tourist office. And indeed, India is incredible. For many reasons: its 1.1 billion population, its more than 20 different languages, its extreme contrasts, its Bollywood movies, its beautiful and colorful sarees, its traffic, its smog in Delhi, its dirt, its amazing food, its never ending advertising on TV, its tuk tuks, its ‘no privacy’ policy…. This list is certainly not comprehensive and refers to our little experiences in Delhi and we may add to it by the end of our India trip once we’ve seen more of Incredible !ndia.
Luckily we arrived very early on Sunday morning in Delhi with not many people at the airport and on the streets. Our bikes arrived undamaged thanks to Johan’s great packaging skills and within an hour we found a taxi driver who was willing to drive us to our guesthouse in the north of Delhi – one bike on top of the taxi, one inside together with the rest of our luggage, Johan next to the taxi driver and I squeezed in between the luggage in the back.
Not realizing how big Delhi really is – another 15 billion people metropolis – the ride took more than an hour even though there was hardly any traffic. The only ‘highlight’ of this journey was when the taxi driver suddenly cleared his throat very noisily, wound down the window and spit out whatever he found in his throat. He repeated this procedure approximately every 10 minutes. After more than a week in India we still cannot get used to the spitting and related noises, very, very strange.
Our first guesthouse was cheap (700 Rs or 10 EUR per night), with nice and friendly staff, relatively clean and basic with a very nice restaurant where we had our first Indian meals – delicious. It would have been a great choice if we would not have had to spend most of our time in the south of Delhi at doctors, embassies etc.
Our main means of transportation is the rickshaw or tuk tuk as they call it here. And we soon find our favorite driver who we call whenever we need a ride. His English is quite good and he keeps asking us tons of questions such as ‘Do you also have bridges in your country? Do you also have tuk tuks? Can I come and work as a tuk tuk driver in the Netherlands? How much is the fine for crossing a red traffic light? Do you also eat chapatti? Do you have children?‘ He also told us that he has two Misses: his rickshaw and his wife, who is preparing all his meals for him, but mainly chapatti. One morning we asked him to pick us up at 9.45 am and we explained many times in many ways because he didn’t seem to understand (I guess ‘a quarter to ten’ isn’t what Indians would say) but somehow he misunderstood and already arrived at 8.30h. When we finally showed up more than an hour later he was still waiting for us and so happy that he couldn’t stop laughing and smiling. We just couldn’t believe his endurance!
By now we are by the way married with two children (twins, a boy and a girl), studying at the Amsterdam university. We added the kids, because our taxi driver who brought us to the airport in Istanbul couldn’t stop laughing when we told him that we didn’t have children and Johan thought it might be wise to just add two of them. We need to adapt!
We are also slowly getting used to the Indian English. A lot of Indians tend to talk extremely fast, their intonation is very different and they often use other words or expressions than those we are used to. And they use abbreviations for everything:
Taxi driver: “You want Azee?”
Taxi driver: “Azee, Azee!”
Johan looked at me with question marks in his eyes, I shrugged and finally the driver pointed to the switch on his dashboard, so we got it, he meant A/C.
Johan: “Yes, a bit, please.”
Taxi driver: “What?”
Johan: “Just a bit would be great, thank you.”
Taxi driver: “What?”
Johan: “Well, half A/C, if possible.”
Taxi driver: “Ah, half Azee, OK, OK, half Azee!”
So far so good, we’ll have many more interesting, thought-provoking and funny stories of Incredible !ndia for you in the pipeline.