A blog by Mel Riser about LifeBoat Permaculture and Solar Villages

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

From a friend working in India

This is a letter from a friend working in New Delhi, India for the next few months.


This city is really 4 cities across a border of 2 'states' (sort of like Kansas city) - New Delhi, Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, which together compromise something called NRC - for National Region of something or other - with 25 - 30 million people in the entire 'city' - it is truly an ocean of flesh, cement, various vehicles mixed with cows and camels, and much squalor, that goes on and on and on - about 200 kilometers wide. More than 40% are considered 'poor' - this means no house , no water, no food, no job, no nothing. The contrast of the poverty sitting at the steps of a relatively high tech industrial machine, with its exotic skyscrapers, etc - is extreme and chilling.
This is not a touristed city and so foreigners are quite rare - in fact I have seen about 2 Caucasians besides ourselves (4 of us) since we got here. So as can be imaged - even though they have western TV and movies - to see 'us' white folks in the actual flesh is unusual - we are stared at heavily and are of 'jaw dropping' material...even at this day in India's capital. Fortunately - I am a giant here - of the millions I have already passed, I have yet to see anyone taller than I....I feel safe - the people are very nice - I believe this is because Hindu's (80% of the population) are just plain mellow people - it's seems part of their religion...also - even though there seems to be a huge lack of authority - no police to speak of or military that one can see - strong family values keep people 'in line' via their morals and conscience.
With a population so large in a city with zero zoning laws - or respect for any laws or rules in general - one can only imagine what traffic is like. To truly experience it is pretty unfathomable from a US perspective - since I spend 3to 4 hours per day in it (traffic) I will start with describing this aspect of Delhi life.

We daily drive the 'inner loop' - this is a 4 lane road with a heavy median of stone and rubble down the center so that the 2 lanes of opposing traffic rarely can collide. These 2 'lanes' per side are treated as 5 - 7 lanes of actual traffic as the there is absolutely no respect for any lane division lines, nor for any traffic signals or lights. There exists no real 'police' that I have seen. It is the most insane traffic I have witnessed anywhere on the earth and I thought Bangkok was crazy. The aggressiveness of the drivers is unimaginable until you see it - only surpassed by their mellowness with collisions and lack of reaction to what would seem to us to be the most extreme driving rudeness - fortunately - with so many people - speeds never get much above 30 MPH - the fastest we have yet to go is 80 KPH (48 MPH) - and that is exceedingly dangerous as one cannot predict what will jump out in front at those speeds....there is just so much flesh everywhere. We have already been in 2 significant 'hits' - no one stop for wrecks - you simply drive on faster and do not look back. Wrecks that incapacitate vehicles do not generate too much of a jam as there is no rubbernecking - rather it just another opportunity to take advantage of an opening once past the wreck. The space allowed between vehicles - of which there is every type and variety - is literally inside of an inch constantly - it has to seen to be believed. The skill required to drive on the main drags is considerable to handle these close proximity high precision driving stunts - intersections are no different than the 'crazy 8' races - with cars shooting the gaps at 90 degrees to each other - often accerlating into the intersection rather than slowing - I suppose to reduce your time in the intersection that may be exposed to oncoming traffic. A horn is one of the most important pieces of standard equipment - taking the place of turn signals, brake lights, and more - in fact it is a courtesy to blow your horn when passing - not rudeness - hence everyone is blowing their horns all the time - pure cacophony on the roads.

There are many scammers, and pickpockets, etc...I was 'victimized' by a scam I had to see as I was 'scammed' by a shoe repair man (I think) as my shoes where cut with scalpel precision on the street - both of them cut a few inches across completely through the leather - although my foot was never touched or cut - I did not feel it - but as I passed the shoe repairman on the street he said 'Oh sir, look at your shoes' - and to my amazement my perfectly good shoes were now trash with my socks showing out the side of each - and I had only brought one pair with me - so I had no choice but to get the repair being offered and with little bargaining power - in the end it was only 4 bucks and included new shoelaces and a cleaning - and the sewing job was amazing to watch as he resewed my cut up shoes by hand - very quickly - with great skill. Never-the-less - the bast&rd shouldn't have cut my shoes - probably a small kid did it - one in cahoots with the repairman.

That said - there is also much good - the hotel is one of the most plush I have ever stayed in. The service is incredible everywhere. The food is great - the worst food I've had here -is better than best Indian food I have had in the States - I will be gaining not losing pounds (as expected) before my return for our own fattening holidays. The women are exotic and beautiful - at least to me from the 'other side of the fence'.

A visit to the Taj Mahal on Sunday convinced me that it does deserve to be called a "wonder of the world" - that is a letter in it's own.

Time is short - so I will wend this so that it doesn't sit as a draft for another 2-3 days

Take Care
Still Alive


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