October 27, 2005
We're safely arrived in Delhi, but we had a pretty epic couple days! Air India lost our bags, and trying to recover them in this chaos was a real test. We got both of them back now though, and are recovering from several days without sleep.
There are cows sleeping in the street in front of our hotel, and you can barely see the sun it's so polluted.
Pictures and more update soon.
Here are some emails we sent to family. Some of the info is repeated but it gives you the overall picture of the *events* in India so far.
Well, arrival in India was....interesting. We waited for over an hour
for our bags (which we were forced to check in Paris since they were
too heavy) and they never came. Everything in India is total chaos,
and trying to figure out what to do was a real test of mettle. We
finally got out of the airport by 9:30 (after a 5:30 arrival) and
found our pick-up was not there. No suprise really, given how late we
were. So we got a pre-paid taxi for only 220 rupees to get to the
hotel. The driver only tried to swindle us a little bit trying to
persuade us to go to another hotel. When we arrived at our hotel,
they were a bit miffed we didn't show for the ride (it's an hour drive
to the airport) and they pulled some "we gave your room away" rubbish.
We ended up paying 50 rupees more for our room, but were too tired to
fight much more. We promptly took showers and fell asleep. Woke at 7
to have dinner and arrange a ride back to the airport to get our bags.
They had told us they would be on the 8:30pm flight from Bombay. The
hotel was kind enough to arrange a driver to take us to the airport
and wait for us while we got our bags, then take us back. We didn't
arrive at the airport until 9:30, and turns out the flight left Bombay
at 8:30 and wasn't due to arrive in Delhi until 10:30. So another
hour waiting. At 10:30 the office was closed & little hint about what
to do and where to go. Some murmers that the bag would be in at
11:15. By 11:30 we were very nervous, so we started trying to get
inside the baggage area (which required a security pass), but our
desperate pleas to the guard must have worked and he let us in. By
midnight, we finally had our bags, and we returned to the parking lot
crossing our fingers the driver would still be there. He was -
sleeping in the front seat - and we finally got back to the hotel
sometime after 1am. So we've slept most of the day here, and are
finally relaxing a little.
We did get our luggage, finally, but not until about 1:00 am after arriving at 5:30 am the morning before! I cried and cried out of utter deperation (and absolute exhaustion) at not having a proper system in place for us to get help or to track down our bags. It is CHAOS here and the airport is no different. We kept being told to wait, to come back, to wait some more and finally Luke manage to get himself inside the airport without the proper pass we needed even though we had filed all the paperwork of our missing bags the morning we landed. We pleaded with the machine gun armed guards to let us in to get our bags and they finally did. They were very nice to us, machine guns and all.
The system here is there is no system! There are so many people living here and with the limited resources available -- people just merge onto everything: the ticket counter, the food, the bus, the street, everything. It is quite overwhelming.
There are cattle roaming the streets, shitting and rummaging through the garbage which they live on. The streets are unimaginably FILTHY and the air... oh my GOD, you can't imagine, you just can't imagine it. This is where these people live everyday of their lives.
Our hotel has a roof top terrace which is nice and from here you can see out over many of the buildings. From the terrace you can see other roof-tops where people have made a spot of comfort and beauty for themselves in the midths of all of this; a terrace with a few of its walls painted brightly turquoise and potted plants which some how flower despite the fact that the sun cannot break through the ceiling of pollution. It makes you feel very connected to other people on this planet. Here are people, who just like us, want simply to carve out a place for themselves, through whatever means they have available to them. To create even the smallest spot of beauty in their daily lives. I know this seems a bit obvious but this place has made it real for me.
It is hard going though and with that said, we are heading out of Delhi on the train tomorrow night to Dharmasala/Mcleod Ganj and to the mountains where the air is clean and it is far away from any significant city. We must come through Delhi 2 more times: once to catch the train to Agra and Varinassi and then back again to catch our flight to Bangkok, Thailand on November 20. We will try to tackle some of the major sights then after we get more accustomed to our new environment. Man, just thinking that we were in Paris only a 4 days ago blows my socks off! What jump!!
Luke and I are doing great though. I finished the last Harry Potter book this afternoon and I am heart sick about the delevopments! Luke is reading the Chronicles of Narnia and I'll pick that up when he is done. The food is good and so far no Delhi-Belly! Cheers to that!!
We have gotten some photos but need to get a bunch more before we leave tomorrow as we will stay in a different area of Delhi on our way back through.
Reading back through this it seems as though we are unhappy to be here but don't mistakenly think that is true. We are glad to be here and have been meet by some very warm, helpful people.
The streets, though filthy, are filled with flowers (mostly plastic)hanging from every shop window and doorway. There is Hindi music playing in the streets which is delightful and comical in its own lovely way. The autorickshaws and bicylce rickshaws are all painted and many have dashboard shrines to Ganesh, the remover of obstancles, who is much needed in this crowded, josting place! (for my family *wink*wink* Genesh is the Hindu God who looks like an elephant)
What a strange and wonderful place so far! All we needed were our bags and some sleep to being to enjoy it.
October 29, 2005
Well, it is good to be wrong! The sun is shining through today and we are getting our bearings. After breakfast of eggs and veggies and strong black tea with milk, we were ready to hit the bazaar again to grab some things for our overnight train to Dharmalsala. Two French girls who were staying at our hotel just come back from the Dharmasala and McLeod Ganj area and said it was beautiful and peaceful there. They were even able to see the Dali Lama speak while they were there and we hope to have the same luck. We have some great pictures coming!
October 31, 2005
An update on the night of Saturday, October 29 events in Delhi.
Three areas of Delhi were bombed Saturday night -- 3 bombs in total. The 2nd of the 3 bombs went off in the Paharaganj area, between New and Old Delhi, 1 block up and 1 block over from our hotel, in the Paharaganj shopping bazaar. Most of pictures are this very place. We had just been in the bazaar to get items for a long train trip to McLeod Ganj, but we had come back to the hotel because Luke wanted to lie down before our train and I wanted to get packing.
Little boys had been blowing off firecrackers for the entire time we were there and after a few days, we didn't even jump when they went off right next to us. In our room I heard a loud pop, but nothing too different from what we had been hearing the whole time, a bit heavier, solid sounding, maybe. But the doors inside our room rattled in their jams and I thought that was strange. We kept packing and went down to pay our bill and check out. You have to understand that it is so loud and chaotic here that we couldn't tell the difference on our street. While paying the bill the manager said this is "an unlucky day for India" and I replied, "I thought it was an auspcious day!" and he made a face and said "why would you say that?" and I replied, "because it is the start of Diwali(?)" and then he told us about the first 2 bombs. Luke and I looked at each other and said at the same time, "that's what that was." It was hard to get any info until an Indian women, who was raised in London, who was also staying at our hotel asked us if we spoke English. She told us all she knew, they were missing her sister who was trying to get back to the hotel and had been ok after the first bomb and they hadn't heard from here since the 2nd bomb. We had to leave before she returned so I hope her sister is ok.
An Israeli family, mom and dad and 2 college-aged girls, told us a bit more. The girls were only a few store fronts down from the blast, it is from them that we find out how close the 2nd bomb really was to us. Their mom and dad were glad to know where they because they were scared -- but not like I thought somebody in the situation should be. I mean they seemed to kinda shrugged it off. Perhaps living in Israel prepares you for occurances like this but their calmness confused and scared me.
We had already purchased our tickets for the 9:00 pm train, leaving in 1.5 hours, but I was scared to go to a crowded public place. Luke thought we should get the hell out of there so we ran to the computer lab at the hotel to email our families not to worry and then we were going to hire an autorickshaw (tuk tuk) to the Old Delhi train station and leave on our train. Once on the computer,I opened the cnn.com news page and saw the reports rolling in with Paharganj as the "hardest hit" and "charred bodies" stuff, that is when I tweaked and became really scared -- should we stay put here in the hotel or get out of Delhi?!? We were heading out into the unknown and to a crowded place which had been the targets thus far.
Well, long story, reasonable short, we got to the train station via a driver who didn't try to scam us too badly. The Tuk Tuk driver was an amazing, especially in the madness which are Delhi's streets. We tipped him 50% of the fare. The tuk tuk ride was so exhilerating that it made me laugh and smile even with all the events that had happened that night.
We quickly found our train, hopped into our reserved bunks, we introduced ourselves to French lady and her 12 year old daughter who were sharing our compartment and we all put together our beds and made our way safely to Panthencot (11hours). From here we jumped on the bus to Dharmasala (3.5 hours), then a shuttle to MCleod Ganj (30 minutes)up in the mountains. More about Mcleod Ganj on its page, but are so glad to be here!