Friday, November 25, 2011

7 Days In India - Arrival

November 23, 11:45pm

We finally arrived in Delhi and followed the flow of people off the plane and out into the airport.  I knew I was definitely in Asia when I used the public restroom and the toilet was a "squatty potty".  It was as if Asia was saying to me: "Welcome back!"  Not exactly the warm welcome I was looking forward to after nearly 24 hours off travel!

We followed the throng of people down a long passageway then down an escalator in to a large open area that was crowded with hundreds of people, all competing for a good place in line to go through India's customs department.  Again, the crowds literally pressed against us with no regard for our personal space and in a more humid, warm climate, I felt the sweat begin to trickle down my back.

Yet, we were here!  And despite the exhausting journey, I was excited to leave this clean, westernized government building and step out into the night air where the smells, sounds and sights would tell me of India.  It was an exciting feeling to come out into the meeting area that was lined up with eager people waiting for family members, along with drivers holding up placards with names written on them.  We scanned the line and saw two young men holding a sign "Dan and Lisa" and I waved and we greeted our first new friends from Delhi.

They kindly helped up with our baggage and led us to a small - and I mean SMALL - van.  It was similar to a VW van, but even thinner and so tiny it almost felt like India must be the origin of the Smart-Car, except that they make smart-vans designed to transport large groups of people in a TINY space.

Very soon we learned that the honking of your horn is synonymous with signalling and making other drivers aware that you are about to crash into them if they don't get out of your path.  There is no typical sense of order in Indian driving, and the lines on the road are more decorative than meaningful.  Within two minutes of being seated on the back bench of this tin can - I mean 'tiny van', we came within 12 inches of careening into another vehicle on the road.  The style of driving is a continual game of "chicken" with the other vehicles. To get to your destination quickly, you squeeze into any space available whether it's in the middle of a proper lane, or on the shoulder of the road.  The result is that instead of the normal 2 lane highway, there is a much more "efficient" 4 or 5 "lanes" squeezed into the same amount of space which we would use for 2 cars back in Canada.  Oh, and that's not including the motorcycles and bicycles that wind their way through the congestion of traffic.

Being that it was the middle of the night, thankfully we didn't have to experience the swarms of vehicles that would normally be there... that would wait for the following day.  Soon enough, daylight would come and we could observe the culture, the people, and experience the traffic with greater clarity and intensity!

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