Friday, March 14, 2008

Smell this

The plane lands thirty minutes late and after getting through customs I wait another fifteen minutes for my bag on the baggage carousal only to discover that it was already pulled off the carousal and has been sitting waiting for me somewhere else. But no worries. I grab my bag and we’re off, each getting our driver to take us to the hotel which is about thirty minutes drive.

Dan says to me, “Now you’ll get a whiff of India”.

I say, “I thought that was just the smell of the airport."

“Oh no, it’s the pollution. You smell that? It’ll get on your clothes. You’ll be smelling it for weeks after you get back.”

And he’s probably right. The polluted smell is a bit like burnt matches or ghost remnants of some burning tire factory. I think it might be partially due to the petrol exhaust. It reminded me of the Richmond air…thick and heavy…

Speaking of heavy, the fog was heavy when we landed. As my driver took me through various streets of Delhi, we could sometimes only see about twenty feet ahead of us. That didn’t stop his resilience as he honked and weaved around busses, motorcycles, rickshaws, people walking in the middle of the street, stray dogs, goats and oxen. Yes, oxen. Not just on the small side streets, but the major roads. We almost hit two huge oxen just ambling across this major thoroughfare.

And I couldn’t help but notice the urban slums we drove past. I’d seen some downtrodden and poor people just outside our resort in Mexico, but this was far, far worse. And more prevalent. It’s hard to describe, so I’ll have to post some pictures.

By the way, that picture above is from the Khan Market--not a slum, but a more touristy shopping area.

In short, I just got off the plane and I’m totally overwhelmed. Then, after seeing how most of India lives, I check into the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel…And a palace it is…probably the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed at. People are waiting on me hand and foot. Every time I leave the room it gets cleaned. I ordered room service and the butler (yes, butler) asked me to touch the beer bottle to make sure it was chilled enough. Just makes me feel even more uncomfortable.

And it hits me...I'm in another world and totally out of my depth.

Tomorrow and Tuesday are full days of meetings before heading out to the "field" and seeing the villages.

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