New Delhi: Not What I Expected

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Technically I’ve been in New Delhi for 9 days, but it really feels like only three because I was cooped up in the hospital and then recuperating at my friend Ben’s place for so long.  On Saturday (it’s Monday today), papa Ben gave me the okay to get out and see the city with my two Australian friends who were also in Delhi for the weekend.  It was the first time in a week that I had spent more than 10 minutes outside and it felt GREAT.

New Delhi has a bad reputation for being overly chaotic, dirty, and ugly.  It’s also known for it’s awful traffic and unhealthy air quality.  And some of these things are true.  In fact, all of these things are true in some areas of the city at certain times of the day.  But it’s certainly a gross generalization to call Delhi a dirty, ugly, traffic-filled city.  In the past three days, I have seen more green life than I have since I left Munnar (the Kerala hill station) more than 3 weeks ago.  I have also seen wide streets with well-functioning roundabouts that filter cars, bikes, rickshaws, and busses efficiently through the city.  I’ve seen beautiful, ancient buildings; an enormous, flower-filled park; and a hipster pedestrian street full of art galleries, chic stores, restaurants, and bars.  On the flip side, I haven’t been more hassled by touts here than anywhere else.  Men on the streets leave me completely alone.  I’ve never felt endangered or threatened and I’ve been out past dark twice now.

I’m convinced that most people think they hate Delhi because it’s often their first Indian city.  I might have hated Mumbai if I hadn’t been couchsurfing with amazing hosts there.  Delhi and Mumbai can both be extremely intimidating if you haven’t yet “gotten your feet wet” in India.  The sheer number of people in both of these booming metropolises is enough to scare off anyone who hates a crowd (New Delhi- 25 million; Mumbai- 20 million).  So, if you arrive in Delhi, and you’ve never been to India, of course you’re going to take one look around at all the organized (and unorganized) chaos and think, “Yeah, no.  Not for me.”  So here’s my recommendation: If you fly into Delhi, get out as soon as possible.  Go explore India.  But make sure you leave a few days before departing the country to return to Delhi and give it a real chance.  There are good things here.  Great things, actually.

Here’s are some examples:

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Delhi street life in the Paharganj neighborhood

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Delhi street life in the Paharganj neighborhood

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Delhi street life in the Paharganj neighborhood

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Delhi street life in the Chandni Chowk neighborhood

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Delhi street life in the Paharganj neighborhood

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Delhi street life in the Chandni Chowk neighborhood

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Delhi street life in the Chandni Chowk neighborhood

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That’s a lot of baskets on that bike!

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Basket guy

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Delhi street life

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Massive India flag in Connaught Place

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Connaught Place

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Delhi street art

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Delhi street art

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Bhel puri – a popular, spicy street snack made from puffed rice, toppings, and spices

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Friendly ladies who let me share their bhel puri so I could see if I wanted my own. I didn’t.

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Lovely women of Delhi.

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Check out this book shop!

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The extremely crowded Delhi metro

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The extremely crowded Delhi metro… Standing in line to exit

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The Red Fort

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The Red Fort

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The Red Fort

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The Red Fort

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The Red Fort

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The Red Fort

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The Red Fort

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The Red Fort

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The Red Fort

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Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Sikh temple

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Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Sikh temple

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Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Sikh temple

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Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Sikh temple

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Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Sikh temple

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Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Sikh temple

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Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Sikh temple

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Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Sikh temple

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Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Sikh temple

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Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Sikh temple

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Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Sikh temple

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Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Sikh temple

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Humayun’s Tomb

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Humayun’s Tomb

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Humayun’s Tomb

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Humayun’s Tomb

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Humayun’s Tomb

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Humayun’s Tomb

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Humayun’s Tomb

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Humayun’s Tomb

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Humayun’s Tomb

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Humayun’s Tomb

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Humayun’s Tomb

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Humayun’s Tomb

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Another Sikh temple

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Small man affixing giant Tim’s head scarf. All heads must be covered in a Sikh temple.

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We happened upon a Sikh wedding; much more low key than a Hindu wedding.

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Sikh temple preparing for the daily free lunch.

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Sikh temple preparing for the daily free lunch.

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Sikh temple preparing for the daily free lunch.

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Sikh temple preparing for the daily free lunch.

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Sikh temple preparing for the daily free lunch.

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Sikh temple preparing for the daily free lunch.

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I was invited to help make chapati.

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Me and this Sikh guy

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Sikh temple preparing for the daily free lunch.

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Wedding decorations

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Lodhi Gardens

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Lodhi Gardens

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Lodhi Gardens

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Lodhi Gardens

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Lodhi Gardens

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Lodhi Gardens

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Lodhi Gardens

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Lodhi Gardens

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Lodhi Gardens

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Lodhi Gardens

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Lodhi Gardens

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Lodhi Gardens

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An Indian squirrel

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Art gallery in Hauz Khas area

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Dozens of trees carved with LOVE

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Hauz Khas area

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Hauz Khas area

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Hauz Khas area

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Art gallery in Hauz Khas area

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Hauz Khas area

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