I’ve spent about three weeks in Delhi now, and love it. It’s a great city, with tremendous energy, good food and a very optimistic feel about the future. But I’ve been hesitant to write too much because this is my first trip to India for any meaningful amount of time, and I’m loathe to draw too many conclusions from just one city.
What’s interesting, though, is how often I’ve been told by Indians that “Oh, Delhi isn’t the real India. It’s too calm and ordered.” Funnily enough, I’ve also heard the same said about Mumbai, Hyderabad, etc. I suspect Indians take a certain amount of pride in the chaos of the country, and in the nation’s successes that seem to come in spite of that cacophony rather than because of it. There’s a sense of nostalgia for an India that’s more chaotic, more rural, more authentically … Indian … than what you see from today’s rising power in South Asia. And maybe by acknowledging that the chaos of India is slowly being tamed and integrated into the greater economic world, Indians worry that the essence of the country is changing and they’re losing something with development—that it’s just not quite as much fun anymore.
It’s hard to say. But I can say that I’ve rarely been more welcomed, helped and engaged with to the degree that I have been here in Delhi. The locals that I’ve encountered, with the exception of the autorickshaw drivers/bandits, have been unfailingly polite, friendly and helpful. I’m delighted with Delhi.
But I want to note a few things that have caught my fancy:
But these are nits. Delhi and—I assume—India, has exceeded my expectations. My expectations of South Asia were by three years in Pakistan, so India, for all its faults, inequalities, poverty, corruption etc. ad infinitum, comes off as a joyously chaotic place with real forward momentum.
I won’t be online for about 10 days starting tonight because I’ve joined up with a photographer, Carolyn, from Brooklyn who’s documenting the effect climate change is having on environments. So we’re off on a 10-day hike into the Himalayas to the Pindari glacier to document its retreat in the face of rising temperatures.[wpgmza id=”1″]
So, I’ll be off the grid for a while, but there should be some amazing photos when I get back. Look for me around July 2.