My last day in Delhi has been quite eventful. Long essays could be written about each of my main experiences and choosing which to highlight is impossible. Some of the events will be described in detail at a later date. To begin, I had coffee with a surgeon from Calcutta this morning. Dr. Akhter explained the reason for an increase in oral cancer in India. This problem is fairly well known but I appreciated the opportunity to speak first hand with a physician about it. Many people have become addicted to a ‘crushed mixture’ that is put in the mouth. Using this substance can lead to oral cancer. According to Dr. Akhter, the substance contains betel nut and lime powder; some medical articles suggest it is mixed with additional substances. It is held in the mouth for an extended period of time, with increased salivation occurring. This increase in saliva causes all the mucosa in the mouth to be damaged. After a period of time, the user’s mouth retracts to the point where it is difficult to eat. The cost is 4-5 rupees and even young children are using this substance.
We visited Jantar Mantar. It is an historical site in New Delhi composed of 13 architectural astronomy instruments. They all appear to be made of concrete. Construction began in 1724 as astronomical tables were compiled in order to predict the movements of the planets. While there, I was able to feed one of the stray dogs. No bites.
Today we got our first real taste of both hagglers and scammers. This occurred on our walk to Jantar Mantar as well as when we were looking for transportation to Khan Market. The number of times we were approached was staggering. After a while, Greg and I were able to find a few solutions to (sometimes) deter these people from following and harassing us.
This afternoon Greg had his meeting with the Fulbright staff. This was one of the highlights of my day as we were given enormous amounts of information, ranging from the name of a great bookstore in southern Varanasi to connections to a well-respected Hindi teacher.
Our last night in New Dehli was spent at Khan Market, a very busy place. Vendors were selling food, jewelry, a vast assortment of cloth among other items. Despite the heat, I will miss this place.
We took a taxi to Lodi Garden last night. Our driver, a 24 year old man wearing a yellow turban, explained he’d been married just 3 months. It was arranged. He told us in his very soft voice he was happy. Cars zipped in and out along our route, I jerked my body toward the center of the back seat, thinking I could dodge a hit as a bus narrowly passed us. I know it wouldn’t have helped but it felt oh so necessary.
I’m going to be honest. The only reason I am posting this under FOOD is so I can showcase the restaurant. I did enjoy my dinner, but it was the atmosphere I loved. It took me to some lush place with its lanterns hanging from trees. canopied areas to eat, mixed in with beautifully set tables. Paradise.
We arrived in New Delhi around 1:30 am this morning, after an 8 hour flight from Amsterdam. After collecting our bags, we were met by a Fulbright representative who was carrying a sign that read, “Welcome, Mr. Tuke”. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be in an airport and have someone holding a sign welcoming me. Maybe it was because MY name wasn’t on the sign, but it wasn’t nearly as thrilling as I’d imagined-at least not for me. What was thrilling (actually frightening) was seeing men in khaki uniforms with large machine guns hanging off their shoulders.
I’d heard stories about the heat here. As we walked outside, it greeted me full force. Before I got to the car, the back of my neck was damp, my hair sticking to it like some kind of old glue. The air felt thick and dirty. My eyes burned, but only a little. Our ride to the hotel took 30 minutes. In that half hour I noticed the roads were very good. Turns out they were just a tease as we found many in bad shape today.
The drive last night verified things I’d read. Cars were honking, stray dogs, ribs exposed, crossed the streets. I thought about how I’d turned down the rabies vaccine; $1000 had seemed too much. In one area there were twenty or so people, dressed in dirty white clothes, sleeping on concrete. Even from a distance their frailty was exposed.
Three hours sleep brought me to Sunday morning and my first glimpse of Delhi from our hotel window. After breakfast, Greg and I changed dollars to rupees and ran a few errands traveling by bajaj or auto rickshaw. At a stop sign, children ran up to us doing handstands and back flips in the street, hoping their performances would net them money. Greg pulled out some kind of coin and a young girl, hanging onto the bajaj, winced and wailed just a little, a signal it wasn’t enough.
It’s so exciting to be here! I wish I had time to write about every little thing I’ve already experienced. If you’d like, please comment or ask questions. Communicating and sharing this place with you brings me joy!