Arriving in Delhi was a shock to to senses. The air was hot, thick, and smelled of burning wood. The streets were bustling with cars, tuk-tuks, pedestrians, cows, and trucks overflowing with unidentifiable cargo. The electrical wiring hung twisted and dangerous over the walkways. Chickens lay ill and stacked in their cages, and merchants sold spoiled meat in the 105 degree heat.
Intertwined with this madness was an indescribable beauty. Women clad in brightly colored saris walked arm-in-arm down the streets; an overjoyed man shouted praise to Shiva in a Hindu temple; the smell of spices permeated the air as locals shared a samosa prepared on the street in front of us.
Here, I am an obvious foreigner. My strangely pale skin and red hair attract many stares and more than a few requests to pose with local tourists for photos – which I gladly do! Just as we grew up with tales of a far away and exotic India – here, I am a peculiar stranger from a far away western land.
Our second stop, Jaipur, was equally chaotic, but had its own individual personality and charm. Glorious palaces were set between street upon street of markets. The smell of urine, burning garbage, cow, and elephant was interspersed with pepper, ginger, fried potatoes, and roasting melons in the hot sun.
At one point, we stumbled across a wedding ceremony – and we foreigners were fascinated by the tradition. As we watched, the locals watched us too, and we all started taking pictures of each other and then posed together for photos. It was great!
My favorite part was when a little girl rode up to me on her bicycle and very slowly and determinedly said, “Hellloo. How are yooou?” I replied, “I’m good! How are you?” And she covered her mouth, giggling, and ran away!
I have travelled to approximately 40 countries, and I can truly say that I’ve never experienced anything quite like India.
~ LiAnn, 2013