In our travel guide – the rough guides – it is stated that you either love India or you hate it and sometimes you do both. It couldn’t be more right. Currently we are far away from loving this country but we are aware that we haven’t seen enough and what we’ve seen and experienced makes it difficult to judge. By now we might also be a bit frustrated by the fact that two very active people who spent the last months traveling are stuck at one place. One thought even crossed our minds to just book our ongoing flights and leave as soon as possible! But we’ll endure and count down the days until we’ll be able to leave Delhi.
India is not only a country of contrasts, but also a country with really interesting and in Europe extinct professions: there are of course the millions of tuk tuk and bike rickshaw drivers and everybody wants to drive you. As a tourist you are not allowed to walk and there is no way of walking more than 100 m without at least one tuk tuk driver first honking and then stopping less than one centimeter next to you asking “Auto, auto?” Even if we send away tuk tuk #1, tuk tuk #2, just behind tuk tuk #1 would stop and ask the same question. Once Johan got so annoyed with it that he yelled at poor tuk tuk driver #5: “NO, WE DON’T NEED A TUK TUK, WE ARE WALKING, CAN’T YOU SEE THAT?”. The driver just shrugged and continued his journey.
Another odd profession are the ear cleaners: men with cotton balls tucked behind their ears and a small box in front of their bellies are walking through the streets and just clean men’s ears on the spot. So far Johan could resist to get his ears cleaned :-))).
And then there are the security guards in front of supermarkets who check your receipt and stamp it. This is the oddest we’ve seen. We even asked them what they are doing and the guy would just answer: “Bill two items, you two items, good, you go!” But if you have a full shopping bag, I really wonder how they make sure we didn’t steal anything. Because they are not watching while we are paying and they also don’t check our bags. Is this just a way of creating jobs?
Ironing is a big business in our area. On my way to the supermarket there are at least ten little stalls with women or men ironing the old-fashioned way: a heavy piece of iron with hot coal inside. Men are burning fires to heat up the coal, their small children are playing next to the stalls and sometimes they are also selling cookies or other snacks. Next to these stalls is usually a man with a sewing machine, again the old-fashioned way, since there is no electricity. Tuk tuks and bikes with loads of washed laundry arrive during the day to keep both the ironer and the sewer busy.
Not sure if the following is a profession but Indians are sleeping a lot and everywhere and in the weirdest positions: the security guards of our building most of the time lie on the lawn just behind the gate, seems to be a really safe place here. Tuk tuk drivers sleep upside down in their vehicles, motor bike drivers on their motorbikes. Others are able to sleep between 6-lane highways on a one meter wide shoulder just ignoring the enormous traffic, or on a 20cm wide plank placed on top of half a meter of bricks. In their stalls on top of the goods they are trying to sell is another good place to sleep, they just curl up in a blanket, cover their whole body and sleep. I wish I had this gift, I can’t even sleep in a car, train or aircraft, it does’t matter how tired I am.
We also witnessed Diwali or Deepavali, the festival of lights and India’s biggest festival is celebrated. Festivities include the lighting of oil lamps and firecrackers, enormous light decorations of houses and the giving and receiving of sweets and gifts. The celebrations usually take 5 days and the firecrackers are being lit all day long to come to a climax as soon as it gets dark. The third day is the day when the presents get exchanged and the noise from the fireworks is so unbelievably loud that you can hardly talk anymore inside. We were glad that we couldn’t go out due to Johan’s operation, but seeing and hearing all these fireworks that one evening was still impressive.