Monday, September 27, 2010

New Delhi, Old Delhi and final thoughts

 New Delhi is India's Disneyland. A fake city built to sell to the world something that India is not.
The government buildings resemble Washington DC, with  nice buildings on a long road surrounded by well kept parks. Monuments surrounding the area, fancy hotels and foreign embassies.

The Shangri-la Hotel was a fantastic surprise. One of the best hotels I ever stayed, with a great restaurant and a even better spa and gym. I didn't want to leave that place!

But don't be excited. Drive a few blocks and India's reality will hit you in the face again... Welcome to Old Delhi!

Agra and Jaipur were just the prelude to the apocalyptic visions I would bring back home from India, because Old Delhi had a lot of surprises in store for us. Please, take a look at the picture above, can you see the wires hanging by the ruins, I mean, buildings? They are electric cables that hang precariously over Old Delhi. Under them a mob walks around in small alleys, with sewer water running on the pavement, and little stores selling from scarves to vegetables, but it's like a scene out of Blade Runner. It could be picturesque if it wasn't tragic and depressing. Again you will face human life in the most degrading conditions you can imagine.

There is another Red Fort surrounded by this filthy "city". I couldn't wait to go back to the hotel and at that point, I couldn't wait to leave India.

At the airport, our Continental flight back to Newark was overbooked and we were offered an upgrade to business class and US$500 if we waited until the following day. I looked at the Continental's employee and laughed... If you had said 500 thousand dollars I wouldn't had accepted!

Final thoughts:

People ask me if I would go back to India. I immediately say NO! But I would go back for the innocent victims of this horrific place: the animals. People tell me that in a place where people can hardly feed themselves how one could expect that they would take care of their animals. It's true, but it's no excuse to abuse and neglect creatures unfortunate enough to be born in India.

There are a lot of monuments, forts and temples in India, but to get to those places you will have to deal with the most horrific side of humanity. Something that will impact your life forever. Is that what you expect from a vacation? Then think twice before booking your trip to India.

In a nutshell, India is not a destination, India is a life lesson.  India allowed me to see what our world would be if all that we know and believe, collapses. Because of India I have a new appreciation on being an American and being part of the civilized world.

Because of India I joined Peta and became a vegan.

PS: After visiting India Alanis Morissette wrote the powerful song "Thank You".

These are the lyrics:

How about getting off of these antibiotics 
How about stopping eating when I'm filled up 
How about them transparent dangling carrots 
How about that ever elusive kudo 

Thank you India 
Thank you terror 
Thank you disillusionment 
Thank you frailty 
Thank you consequence 
Thank you thank you silence 

How about me not blaming you for everything
How about me enjoying the moment for once 
How about how good it feels to finally forgive you 
How about grieving it all one at a time 

Thank you India 
Thank you terror 
Thank you disillusionment 
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence 
Thank you thank you silence 

The moment I let go of it was 
The moment I got more than I could handle 
The moment I jumped off of it was 
The moment I touched down 

How about no longer being masochistic 
How about remembering your divinity 
How about unabashedly bawling your eyes out 
How about not equating death with stopping 

Thank you India 
Thank you providence 
Thank you disillusionment 
Thank you nothingness 
Thank you clarity 
Thank you thank you silence 


  1. Thanks for sharing your India trip experience with such honesty.... My favorite (profound) words are: "India is not a destination, India is a life lesson." be appreciative of what we have; to live every moment to the fullest; to be kind, help, and love every person in this world - especially those in need. ~Marcelo (Miami)

  2. But I totally disagree with the sentiments of the post. India has a wonderful culture. I don't believe you spent time to even scrape beneath the surface to see what makes this country tick. My mother had an old saying "two prisoners looked out from behind bars - one saw mud and the other saw stars!"

    The wires and mayhem in Old Delhi are part of the attraction - in whatever situation you find yourself, you can see the brighter side.
    Here is something I wrote after my first train ride in India.

    Picture fear!

    Deserted by the hotel driver on an open railway platform at Mathura Junction – a hectic regional rail hub in a very rural part of India. We are only a two-hour drive from Agra but seemingly years from anywhere else. Is this the correct platform? Are we at the right end of this 1 km-long platform for our assigned seating on the Delhi to Mumbai Express that makes only a ‘whistle-stop’ here? We have reservations as far as the next ‘whistle-stop’ at Sawai Madhopur where we are to be met by the people from the Aman-I-Khas tented camp.

    Night is falling. There’s a damp chill in the air. We are the only foreigners amongst the mass of dhoti and sari clad locals. We stand out. We feel vulnerable. Crouching old ladies prepare pots of rice and vegetables for an impromptu evening meal set out on newspaper. Cows roam the platform pushing their heads into windows of the crowded stationary trains looking for food. Splatting where they stand. A fat black rat scurries up a drainpipe. The din is constant - train announcements in Hindi; ice-cream vendors and tea sellers calling out to passengers; engines shunting; wheels grating; eerie headlights of trains approaching out of the darkness; swooshing past us with whistles blasting; dust and dirt blowing into our eyes.

    Dark eyes stare and watch us - and our Louis Vuitton! (it might well have been). We have hands on all our luggage in a circle around us. That is until I need to pee. Alan is left standing sentinel – fearfully expecting a diverting tactic and the loss of a bag into the throng at any moment. However, the ensuing diversion is not what he expects. He is confronted by hundreds of mosquitoes swirling overhead, planning an attack. Fumbling in his knapsack he locates the Aerogard but that seemingly makes them even more aggressive. I return to see Alan, head bowed, and running in circles with bags under each arm and dragging two heavy suitcases; mosquitoes hovering in a tight circle in hot pursuit, like a space ship in the flickering light; bewildered locals looking on.

    Was it his black jacket? Or his Old Spice?

    I look back on it with such fondness.