New Delhi, India, a Personal View

Travel & Leisure

  • Author Ian P. Oliver
  • Published April 27, 2023
  • Word count 867

I had been interested in Indian culture, history, and religion all my life it would seem and one of my ambitions in life was to go there and explore this wonderful country. One of my goals was to go up north and see the mighty Himalayas. And it was in the summer of 2003 that I eventually set off for India, to stay in New Delhi for a couple of days, and then fly up north. One of my motives was to travel to Dharamsala, where the Tibetan Government in Exile is located, and then move up to McLeod Gang, the seat of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

Arriving in New Delhi around midday in August 2003, I must admit I was not prepared for what I was about to experience. My senses were attacked by a miasma of noise, hellish stinking pungency, swarms of sweating humanity, acrid pollution that stung one’s eyes, and swarms and swarms of mosquitos and flies . . . all of this, and I was nowhere near my hotel from the airport. As it happened, my hotel was located just a 10-minute walk to what is regarded as the center of the city: Connaught Place.

In this ultra-congested city of around 19,000,000 souls, I would characterize Delhi as a rotting pile of garbage that won’t go away. Of those millions of inhabitants, a staggering 2.0 million live on or below the poverty line, living in squalor - many are of the ‘Untouchable’ class of the Hindu faith, the lowest of the low! The city generates an incredible 10,000 to 14,000 tons of garbage daily. At best, perhaps 8,000 tons of that is disposed of properly. The rest has to go somewhere - and alleyways, streets, parks, and even ancient monuments are common dumping grounds. Everywhere you look there are piles upon piles of fetid, rotting trash.

It's not just trash. Human waste is a big problem in a city where millions of people have no access to toilets. In the poorest slums, streets serve as open-air toilets, and even in the nicest neighborhoods some street corners, long used as public urinals, can choke passers-by with a fog of urine stench. I personally witnessed many men just pissing on the pavements - there’s cow, dog, cat, and goat shit everywhere. In fact in the narrow street where my hotel was located, I literally had to side-step the piles of shit - it was scattered all along the street and you can imagine the stink - it was overpowering, resulting in my uncontrollable retching!

I have seen dead cats and dogs, their bodies decomposing on the sidewalks and nobody takes a blind bit of notice; and this in45oC of unrelenting heat. The stench is overwhelming.

But I guess it was the getting around in Delhi that became insufferable. I set off one day for a local bar/restaurant that had been recommended by the hotel duty manager. It would be just off of Connaught Place; a ten minute-walk. It would have been late morning and the heat and humidity were horrendous. I was working in the Middle East at the time and I was used to the heat, but not this kind of heat. It was a humid heat but mixed with dust and pollution. I swear I only got about 50 yards and I was already sweating like a pig. I had to duck around throngs of humanity, rabid dogs, rats, old, rickety bicycles, taxis, mangled rickshaws, the odd ‘sacred’ cow, and all the time trying to evade the shit! It was so crowded that if I rubbed shoulders with 50 people, I must have bumped into two hundred before I reached my destination. Just walking along that street was mentally draining.

Then there were the beggars - legions of them - many of whom are kids, emaciated women, skeletal, famished old men, teeth missing, and then as I turned the corner that day - a leper. I was not prepared for that. I never even knew lepers existed anymore but this was one - I knew it and it was shocking. He must have been in his 40s, a gaunt-looking character wearing only a loin cloth. Both hands and feet were twisted and had lesions that looked like open wounds. All of the right side of his face was a mass of lesions and he had only one eye. It was the most horrific image I have ever personally witnessed. I bent down and put 10 rupees in his begging bowl. He nodded and smiled.

By the time I reached my destination, you would have thought I had just had a shower with all my clothes on. I was stinking with sweat, uncomfortable, and the overarching thing on my mind? I have got to negotiate the return journey! Could I walk back to my hotel through all that Pandemonium? I glanced down at my sandals. They were caked with shit!!

The waiter came over to my table and I ordered a beer but you know what? I could not get that poor leper out of my mind. What is it you read and see on the TV these days - the great economic phenomenon that is India? Who are they kidding?

I am an ex-Technical Writer and Editor and published author. These days I write articles about current affairs, business and economics, social media, international politics, sports, music, and almost everything in between. My writing endeavors can be both sarcastic and humorous and I sometimes have an ironic but also compassionate outlook on life in general and it's from this position that I generate content.

E-mail: samyeian@yahoo.com

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