“Oh man, that is an awful smell,” I exclaimed plugging my nose in disgust. “Yes, it is terrible isn’t it?” responded my friend with a laugh as we made our way into the metro station. People had warned me about the terrible odor in major Indian cities, but nothing had prepared me for this.
Date: January 7th, 2016
Time: 11:48 p.m. IST
Location: Delhi, India
I arrived to Delhi Thursday around 9:30 a.m., and as I mentioned in my last post, the city is pure chaos, but what struck me the most was the inescapable smell – a mix of sweat, spices, incenses, urine, and food. Depending on where you were it either smelled absolutely delicious or absolutely putrid. There was no in between.
When we got back to my host’s apartment in Gurgaon, we ate a delicious home cooked meal. Despite my desire to head out and explore, jet lag got the best of me; what was supposed to be a 45-minute nap, turned into me passing out for roughly four hours. There’s a 10.5 hour time difference from Atlanta to India, and after two days here, I am still extremely disoriented.
After my not so short nap, my host, a family friend, and her son took me over to the Galeria Market. Because the city has grown so much, most shopping centers that started off as markets have been turned into malls, but this spot remains open air featuring great street vendors and local stores, as well as trendy stores like Nike and The Body Shop.
My friend insisted that we had to eat at Chaat Chowk. “If you come to Delhi, and you don’t eat there, you might as well have not come,” she explained as we waited in line. The place is a bit pricier than your average street vendor, but it’s one of the best and most hygienic spots in the city. (Stay tuned for a guide to Indian street food coming soon!) We ordered Papri Chat, Pao Bhaji, and Aloo Tikki. I had no idea what I was devouring, but it was absolute heaven. Everything was bursting with flavor.
We continued walking, and I saw lots of couples and young people hanging out in the square as well as stray dogs and “No Spitting” signs. We passed another food vendor and paused to order a Kathi Roll, the Indian equivalent to a burrito. Perfection. It’s a fluffy piece of bread wrapped around juicy chicken that packs
a nice kick. I was on a mission to eat all of the food. After walking around throughout the market for about an hour, we called it a day around 10:00 p.m. and when I got home I slept like a rock.
My host had to pick up another family member from the airport, so we got a bit of a late start to our day. Around 3:00 p.m. we drove to the metro station and found a dodgy parking spot that was guarded by an older man with a large beard and a large hookah. Because it’s such a massively congregated area, the station wreaked. Metro fare ranges from a minimum 8 INR ($0.12) to a maximum of 30 ($0.44) INR so getting around is fairly cheap. It’s worth noting that you have to go through airport-like security to get in. Men and women enter through different lines and face a quick pat down. I was also taken aback by the Women’s Only Compartment. Women who are traveling alone are encouraged to use this compartment for their safety.
Since we were traveling with two other men, we didn’t feel the need to use that compartment, but it felt unsettling to see that. As someone who travels alone quite often, I’ve learned to ignore the uncomfortable looks from men, but I didn’t really feel like I was being visually stripped at any point. Overall, I’d say my experience with public transit was fairly decent.
Our first stop was the beautiful Connaught Place. It’s this huge district that’s booming with business. Anything you’re looking for, you can find in this center. I saw street vendors selling questionable looking Urban Decay Naked Palettes and Mac lipsticks, stray dogs, beggars, American chains like Adidas and Johnny Rockets, quirky shops, and more food. Architecturally, the plaza was a mix of astoundingly beautiful large white pillars and dirt everywhere. It was packed with tourists and natives on the hunt for a good bargain. We spent about two hours exploring all of the little shops and eating more food of course.
I tried the best cold coffee of my life at one of the most famous coffee shops in Delhi – Depauls. I also had tasty chicken dumplings, which are called “momas” here. My stomach was beyond happy. While we were eating, a young girl came to ask for money, and my friend explicitly told me to ignore her at all costs because the second you acknowledge a beggar, they latch onto you hoping to get something. I felt helpless because, on one hand, I wanted to do something for her, and on the other, I didn’t have cash and had been instructed to act like she was invisible.
After eating some more, we got back on the metro then headed over to check out another market called Dilli Haat. Unlike most pop-up markets that come and go, this is a permanent bazaar that you have to buy a ticket to get into (100 INR, less than $2 for foreigners). It’s run by the Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Center and ticket proceeds help keep the market afloat. Most of the time when you buy a little trinket or souvenir, you’re paying the middleman who buys wholesale from the crafter. But when you shop here, you’re putting money directly into the hands of many hard working artists, therefore, maximizing their profit and genuinely helping people in need.
One of the highlights of the trip to the market was getting mehndi designs on my hand. Traditionally mehndi, known as henna in the western world, is usually done before weddings. Two days before the big ceremony, the bride will get her girlfriends and family together, and they’ll get beautiful designs painted all over their hands as they drink and gossip – it’s like the Indian version of a bachelorette party, and according to my host, it is the ultimate girls’ night. Although I loved my designs, I will admit that waiting almost an hour for it to dry was excruciating!
Towards 8:30 p.m. we called it a night, and since at this point it was just me and my host traveling together, we took the Women’s Only Compartment. By the time we got home, I was exhausted. Yes, Delhi has a very distinct smell, but it is vibrant with energy. The markets and food remind me a lot of my home country Mexico. Similarly to Mexico, there’s a lot of poverty here, but the city is rich in life. People laugh loudly here and smile with their teeth. I see beggars on every corner, but I also see little kids jumping around with joy. I don’t think two days is nearly enough to get the full Delhi experience, but I look forward to continuing my exploration of India.
28, Sector 30, M Wide Main Road, DLF Phase IV,
Sector 43, Gurugram, Haryana 122002
Hours: Monday – Sunday 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
(inside the Galeria)
SF 44 Dlf galleria Dlf phase 4 gurgaon haryana ,9310818181,
DLF Phase IV, Sector 28, Gurugram, Haryana 122009
Hours: Monday – Sunday 11:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
New Delhi, Delhi 110001
22, Janpath Bhawan,Janpath, New Delhi, Delhi 110001
Hours: Monday – Sunday 9:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Kidwai Nagar West, Kidwai Nagar
New Delhi, Delhi 110023
Hours: Monday – Sunday 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.