Chose Your Own Adventure
“People come to India looking for two things,” the blood-shot, idle eyes said, “God or drugs.”
It only took a second more to conclude which one the burnt-out hippy came in search of, and with that came the reminder of the dire consequence of the pursuit of seeking what you desire: you just may get it.
Choose your own adventure. This is Delhi, India: a whirlwind to the senses, and a shock to the system. This isn’t a vacation spot. This isn’t a holiday resort. Spare me the lofty descriptions of your pristine, white sand beaches and azure, cloudless skies. If you like your adventures neat, go to Disneyland. Delhi is dirty.
I could sell you Delhi in the civil, postcard fashion. I could weave the scene thick like hookah smoke, give you a butter-colored sky backdrop with the saffron sun dripping against Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque. Feral, lime-green parakeets raucously pattering in the palms of the boundless Lohdi Gardens is the soundtrack. I could tell you of trained monkeys dancing on strings in the gloom of the formidable India Gate commemorating fallen soldiers. I could tell you of weather-worn men smoking hand-rolled tendu leaves, and women in raw silk headscarves, vibrant against the dust, swirling henna on sun-dyed skin. I could give you wisps and whirls of the magical charm that is Delhi. I could give you Delhi muted at sunrise. I could hypnotize you like the wild-eyed snake charmers in the frenzied open-air bazaar, Chandni Chowk. Wish you were here! Come again soon! I could legitimately sell you Delhi like this because the zestful tales of enchantment are true – but I won’t.
Because we go so far as to not only separate our worlds, but also number them, make no mistake: you are in a Third World country. It is beautiful, but it is tragic.
Dazzling with its infinite gods, kaleidoscopic and ornate, Hinduism dominates. Here, religion is not so much the opiate of the people as it is the sustenance. Babies’ bellies go hungry while sacred cows are fed scarce bread.
Homeless children with coffee-brown eyes, rimmed with charcoal to keep the evil eye at bay, swarm through the tangles of traffic begging for rupees, breaking your heart, and eyeing your wallet. I won’t skip over the polluted details: the over population, oppressive heat, and profound poverty – the odors of living in survival mode. You will get cheated. You will be stared at. You will be taken as an outsider. Be prepared for the unexpected, and you’ll be startled to find that this will not deter you, but excite you. This is living. Be shaken. Be stirred.
Don’t come to Delhi to get away, come to arrive. Choose your own adventure, and choose wisely because you just may find what you seek.