Delhi

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If Goa is heaven in India, then Delhi is almost certainly hell. Delhi is maddening in all ways that a city can possibly be. Delhi will sharpen your wits and numb your senses. Delhi will come at you in full force from all directions at all times of the day and from all walks of life. Delhi will make you long for the “slow paced” life of New York City because compared to Delhi, everywhere is slow paced. Delhi will make you scream and yell and start to act in ways you would never dream toward other people and wandering animals. Delhi is the trip of all trips and you can get sky high from your own sensory overload.

I never dreamed of a place as crazy as Delhi. I have been everywhere from Cairo to Bangkok to Johannesburg to Rio de Janeiro and most people describe those places as wild, crazy and in your face. They clearly haven’t been to Delhi because I never thought any of those places were even half bad.

As you fly into Delhi you notice a strange thing – that the air is brown. The air is brown because of an amazing combination of dust and pollution from any number sources including seemingly billions of rickshaws and taxis all contributing unmuffled exhaust into the atmosphere.

As you move closer to the city center and tourist ghettos of Connaught Place and especially Pahar Ganj, you are swarmed by traffic from all directions and from all different types of vehicles and vessels. First you have your obvious culprits, the auto rickshaws, rickshaws and taxis along with regular cars, buses and bicycles. Then you must add in random cows, horses, stray dogs and camels roaming the streets freely. Some of these unkempt beasts might be pulling a cart of something or other and some might be followed by a young child slapping it with a stick or something else torturous.

Finally, as you exit your rickshaw or taxi you must deal with scores of people trying to sell you everything under the dirt-blocked sun. Also, it seemed that if they aren’t trying to sell you something, they are trying to rip you off in some way. Again, all this was expected but just not to the extent in which it was actually performed. These people are relentless and ruthless. They simply do not give up and don’t care how many times you say no and scream at them. If you are lucky enough to steer one tout away from you there will always be a few more filling in for him.

I was staying in Pahar Ganj, a notorious tourist ghetto and the home of the famed Main Bazaar. In Pahar Ganj there are a few other things that you need to be careful of while trying to navigate these cramped streets and alleys. Although it is very difficult to explain the absolute lunacy of this place I will try to be as thorough and graphic as I can.

On the Main Bazaar, which is impossible to avoid if you stay in this area, there are so many people that it is impossible to move how you want to. There are motorbikes, rickshaws, auto rickshaws, bicycles and cow pulled carts usually taking up the center of the very narrow street and honking away relentlessly as if they are infatuated by the sound it made. Additionally, aside from the ridiculous throngs of people walking on either side, you need to avoid the local Indian men chewing and spitting this disgusting red tobacco-like substance.

I am not exaggerating when I saw many people chewing and just spitting this stuff into hordes of people without even giving a look to see if someone was standing where they were about to spit. It was absolutely disgusting and the streets tended to be stained red as well. Aside from trying not to step in red tobacco spit globs, you also wanted to avoid stepping in a variety of feces. Cows and dogs roam this area freely and with that freedom comes the freedom to go to the bathroom wherever they please with no recourse to them. The only recourse obviously, is for the people who step in the crap or spend their entire time trying to avoid stepping in it.

So as you are looking down trying not to step in anything and looking out of the corner of your eye to make sure a rickshaw doesn’t pick you off, you must also contend with the abominable air conditions. The pollution is so bad that I had to wear a bandana over my face to shield my breathing and obviously sunglasses to keep little particles of whatever out of your eyes. In addition to this, you must also contend with people continuously coming up to you and trying to get you to do something you don’t want to do and not letting up. Also, the temperature can range well into the hundreds Fahrenheit and you will be caked with sweat. But the best part is that if you run your nails over your forearms, they will be black from all the dirt in the air. I actually timed it and it took less than five minutes for this phenomenon to occur. Finally, as you might imagine all of these factors: pollution, crap, hot temperatures, garbage and filth lead to an unexplainable stench that I don’t even have a good comparison for but it’s what I would imagine a landfill would smell like. Ahh Pahar Ganj!
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Now I want to be fair to Delhi, there are a few notable things to see, led by the Red Fort, which is very impressive, and more importantly it can give you a reprieve from the constant hassles of the touts. Delhi however, is not for the faint hearted or, let me rephrase that, Pahar Ganj is not for the faint hearted.
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Delhi is of course broken into Old and New Delhi and there are many nice parts of the city but the overwhelming memory that I will take from it, and I know that I am not alone, is just how dirty and disgusting it was. As I think aloud on this piece, I have seen poverty a lot in Asia, Africa and Latin America but I believe why India is known to be so bad is that there are simply so many people on the streets and living in squalor. It is very sad and I don’t mean to belittle these people but it is hard to see and watch the sheer volume that it takes place in all of the cities in India, not just Delhi.

I enjoyed my trip to India and I saw some amazing things and beautiful places and met some great and interesting people. I was all over the country but Delhi is dizzying, maddening, frustrating, annoying and sad. It is a microcosm of modern day India. The rich people live out of sight and all you see is the bottom of the caste system. Delhi is a labyrinth of your mind and a maze of your senses where the word “enough” doesn’t exist. I am glad I had the Delhi experience but I had “enough”.

Comments

  1. Hey dude,

    If you thought Delhi was hell, wait till you see Kolkata (been there yet?). I don’t know if there’s a word that is worse than hell.

    But the city is really an eye-opener…There’s really no other city like Kolkata.

    Ignatius

  2. Haha, is it wierd that I miss Delhi? Is that possible? I was there in 2004, just when Sonia Ghandi was elected into office. So on top of all of this was the looming threat of a major riot that put the city on edge, if it wasn’t all ready.

    But yea, I miss Delhi. The intenseness of the place. The rich history and culture.

    There is really no city quite like it, nor any place at all like India.

    But yea, your description is dead on in my opinion.

  3. Thanks Adam, Delhi is insane and I really tried to capture the feelings you have when you are there…it is maddening

  4. Hi Lee,
    I love traveling, been to europe, brazil, and vietnam, but don’t know where to go next, any recommendation. I love experiencing culture especially that differ of the US. Any places up on your list to go too?

    -thanks

  5. Hi Enna, for something a little different, try India and Sri lanka for sensory overload or Africa-do a safari, see the sahara or volunteer, either place will really make you realize how good we have it here. If you have any specific questions, shoot me an email and I will respond more detailed about the places you’re asking about.

  6. I am a resident of Delhi and I would call Lee’s opinion a biased one. Yes, I admit that there are problems and foreign tourists are surprised by their enormity but what Lee has written is sheer exaggeration and has to be discounted atleast 75%.

  7. Hi Lee:

    Your narrative of your experience of Delhi is an amusing one. I was born and raised in New Delhi till I was about 30 y/o. And since then I have lived in north America (NYC and Toronto). You are most accurate in your physical descriptions of Pahar Ganj. But Pahar Ganj and Delhi are not synonymous. Delhi (and New Delhi) is a fascinating place to explore and incredibly complex in its diversity and intensity. And Pahar Ganj is about the most densely populated part of Delhi, and I’d say it is sort of like the armpit of Delhi on a hot 45 degree celsius day in summer. Consequently I am not sure about your reason for choosing to stay there. But I am assuming it may have partly been because you were on a shoe string budget as many of us are, esp. those of us who travel as much as you seem to. But by the same token as such an experienced traveler I am somewhat amazed at your gut wrenching reactions. I certainly however, agree that the red spittle from the betel leaf that you found in such an abundance all over the city is definitely a disgusting practice. But by and large a lot of Indians generally of the lower socio-economic class who live in overpopulated urban centres of major Indian cities tend to have very poor civic sensibilities, there is no question about that. However, if you were in Connaught Place or ANY other major shopping areas or even neighbourhoods (including *inside* shanty towns, I emphasize *inside* because the space outside many shanty towns is filled with sewage) all over Delhi and New Delhi I am more than certain that you will find that the red spitting practice is at about 1% compared to what it is in a place like Pahar Ganj or for that matter Chandni Chowk (the big market area opposite the Red Fort in Delhi). You claim that in Pahar Ganj or Old Delhi all you see is the people at the bottom of the caste system. Lee, this is about the most mistaken *perception* you have about Delhi. I can’t blame you for this because the concept of caste system has become so inextricably linked to India *in the eyes of people from the west* that it is a safe (though completely wrong) conclusion to jump to when a rationalization or explanation for a westerner’s experience is needed. Some of the wealthiest and high caste families live in Pahar Ganj and Chandni Chowk. If you shopped in Chandni Chowk in an area known as Dariba Kalan, which is famous for its jewellery stores and adjoining wedding and exclusive sari stores you would have found a quietude which is non-existent a 10 minute walk from those stores. And the people who own these businesses they usually live within 5 minutes walk from their stores if not closer. As an aside I would like to add that historically the caste system was a division of labour, but it became corrupted because many of those who were on the upper rungs of society i.e. the Brahmins wanting to retain political power formalized and created the shell of the caste system. And unfortunately that is what the unenlightened Indian acknowledges, and often even promotes. The latter because such an Indian thinks the caste system is perhaps a unique and good thing, and may impress westerners. This lack of understanding as well as the lack of general civic sensibilities among people living in India is in part a legacy of being governed by waves of foreign invaders for centuries. Such Indians have become so habituated to being dominated and being told how to act that they have at least till now, forgotten to think independently and to be responsible for their environment. But I digress…..so let me go back to what I was saying.

    My concept of a true traveler is basically that one cannot *minimally* gain a meaningful understanding of a foreign culture or people unless one has lived there for at least 6 months, and ideally even have worked there if possible. Undoubtedly there are well traveled individuals who because of their past experience quickly gain a genuine (even if partial) insight into a new country they are in or traveling through.

    In part gaining a reasonable insight into a country or city and/or its people is also largely *who* influences your perspective, for e.g. who was the person or were the people one interacted most closely with (hung out with) during the stay in the city in question. Based on my extremely limited travel experience for e.g. whom I hung out with often defined my experience of socializing or the night life of a city. If it was someone who had an active social or night life, that person’s point of view and lifestyle would define my experience. In fact I no longer believe that ANY city in the world (with some exceptions perhaps) has an uninteresting or dull night life, but it is simply a matter who the person was in that city who defined one’s experience, and what their lifestyle is like.

    Now I have absolutely no idea whether you were entirely on your own or along with a travel companion from home or someone from a similar setting, but my guess is that you likely defined your own experience of Delhi, and while you gave a physically accurate description of Pahar Ganj……it does not extend to the rest of Delhi or New Delhi.

    You did not say when you were in Pahar Ganj. But the pollution is much less compared to before because vehicles are now required to use Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), initially it was only cabs and public transit, but now it is for all vehicles.

    Thanks for putting out such an interesting website and for your patience in reading my long response.

    Take care and happy travels,

    Biraj

  8. Hey Biraj, thanks for the amazing comment and I half my article was intended to amuse with that Delhi story. I stayed in Pahar Ganj because I like to stay in different parts of the city regardless of the cost. That part was mentioned in both my guidebooks as kind of a tourist ghetto and I wanted to check it out myself and I really did enjoy my time there and in India as a whole. As you mentioned my physical desripction to be accurate and as a foreigner, even one with as much experince as i do, it is still overwhelming to see that madness. I agree that India is a place that takes time to get to know and I had nearly a month there and felt like I got a good idea of it but one can never truly grasp the fullness of a country, especially a place like India. Anyway, I would like to write more but I in Suriname right now and I still have to post for today…feel free to commment back or email me to discuss further…take care and thanks.

  9. LOL~!!!!

    I just just got back from Delhi and U totally nailed it bro!

    I was living in Sarita Vihar just after the apollo hotel in Pocket L

    ur words were dead on!

  10. Hi Lee,

    I am born and raised in Canada but my ethnic background would best be defined as “Indian” so to speak. I found your article interesting, I think you were on to some good points however I do feel that the overall tone of the article would discourage a traveller from experiencing Delhi regardless of whether you mention your “love” for India or how much you enjoyed the total experience…I have been to Delhi a total of 13 times in my life and admittedly I still couldn’t fathom living in a place that wild, but wow it is an awesome ride. I agree that there are specific areas of Delhi that require you to be on cow-crap alert and scooter crash alert…however I would agree with a comment posted above that it’s very limited if you look at the city as a whole. Not sure if you had a chance to see the areas of Saket, Greater Kailash, Punjabi Bagh, Gurgaon etc. You did mention in your article that the rich and upper class lived away from these main areas of delhi that you visited however I must point out that the majority of the names I listed are vital parts of Delhi and its suburbs and are phenomenal in terms of cleanliness and sophistication.

    Sorry if I am sounding defensive, it is just difficult for me to sit around and have friends not want to go to India because they fear exactly what was said in this article…I do encourage you to remain honest in your assessments and I enjoy your website but I just wanted to clarify to those reading the article that Delhi has a softer side too, one which is worth visiting and will leave you mesmerized by its vast beauty. On a sidenote, I recently went to Phnom Penh, Cambodia…my oh my that place puts Delhi to shame in terms of busy-ness and crowds…but again, worth checking out for a day or two.

  11. Hey Nitin, thanks for that comment and admittedly I didn’t get out to all of the nice places as I was centered in the area that I mainly wrote about and it was an honest portrayal of what I dealt with. The other thing is, the tone of the article was to describe this particular area. I know I mentioned that some places were nice and didn’t go too much into it. However, that particular area is where a number of tourists and actually backpackers do stay as it is the recommended area in Lonely Planet etc. I look forward to visiting India again and seeing much more of that wonderful country. Thanks again for your comment and please keep reading and commenting.

  12. hey lee
    next time u come to delhi, do inform me and i’ll provide u enough money so that u can stay at a better place and experience a different delhi that is beautiful,loving,caring,warm and culturally and historically rich.
    shaily

  13. I am originally from Delhi but live and work in the UK. As they say beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Where else but in delhi would you find a city tracing it’s antiquity back to the bronze age period? Where people of every religion, language and faiths jostle to and from work in it’s tree lined boulevards and crowded alleyways.Where monuments from the early christian era are tucked away among glitzy malls and dazzling skyscapers.And yes, which has the largest CNG (pollution free) public transport service in the world and a metro service built in record time? Try visiting between Novenber to March when the weather is really nice though it can be quite cold..

  14. I have been going there for the last 23 years and trust me I have seen places in delhi that would put the best in the world to shame, I no patricular Order, Did you go to Akshardham ? Lotus Temple , Great India Plaza, Centre Park opposite Palika Bazzar ( Underground Market )? Sooooo many Nice Malls, Chanakyapuri??Vijay Chowk area, Mughal Gardens? Gurgaon , take a metro ride??? I would love to hear from someone who dees’nt think that the metro in delhi isn’t among the top five in the world.By the way I lived most of my life in Europe and have been settled in Canada for about 15 years now.
    Cheers and Peace to All.

  15. I don’t know with which sense u were seeing delhi,but let me tell u man it’s a city of people not a city of stones.next time u come don’t stay at paharganj , better place for u is hotel taj or redisson.sit in a air conditioned taxi.and visit south delhi have food in mourya sheraton.
    U will definitely enjoy .

  16. People in Delhi are the worst people I;ve ever seen. That greed for money, stupidity, stench and absolutely no hygiene is something I never imagined to experience, and I traveled a lot in 3rd world countries. Worst place on the earth, definitely. Public transport kills hundreds of pedestrians every year, because they are paid by how fast they make the route. Not to mention they look like from Mad Max 3 movie, and you can see a collapsed bus every mile or so. Corruption and lying are considered virtues among these people. You get food poisoning even in 5* hotels, because people just don’t know what a soap is. No wonder most of the diseases in India are spread due to oral consumption of human and animal feces. And for eating feces and drinking beer that had gone bad due to inappropriate storage, you often end up paying more than you would in London. Indians are however not concerned with the above. I realized their nationalism is so strong and blatant, they don’t see the difference between Paharganj and Salzburg. Or maybe they are just immune to stench.

  17. shashank says:

    this is a one sided skewed view of delhi. go to the real nice parts of delhi and figure it out. just bcos lonely planet talked about pahar gunj dont go there. no one cares about pahargunj. u need spend some money and i assure u u cannot afford a decent hotel in delhi bcos if u had some class or money u will not go stay in paharganj

  18. There are no nice parts of Delhi. I live in Vasant Vihar, with real estate prices matching Manhattan and it’s not much nicer than Paharganj compared to average European town. No wonder Delhi is the 4th dirtiest city in the world according to Forbes analysis.

  19. Tarun Jain says:

    I grew up in Delhi and I live in Toronto now.I can see people of Indian origin and Indian nationals defending their country, which i guess is absolutely fair.
    For most of the people coming from the west..the population is a complete shocker…and the lack of education is the root cause of every problem in India.Caste system has nothing to do with poverty now days, the so called ‘lower castes’ are given better opportunity, do not judge that who ever is poor will be of lower caste.My father comes from a poor family but we are from a higher caste, not that i believe in the caste system, most of us dont, now days.India is not for the faint hearted and the tourist..its for the traveler..and when I say that I mean it in a deeper sense…not just coming to the place and staying in a hotel, sight seeing…for me its observing and not judging….but then thats just me
    I agree with Lee and Alen..India is dirty,corrupt and hygiene takes a back seat.Not to mention,people are generally greedy.
    Over here in Canada..I have seen people litter, spit everywhere,jaywalk and all sorts of stuff….just that the population is so little that..it goes unnoticed..not to mention the cleaning that takes place regularly…
    I think its the lack of understanding on the part of the westerners who think that they are the standard for culture and everything else in the world.And as for us Indians…by defending poverty,corruption and things like that we over look our problems, which need to addressed immediately .

  20. wow…everyone has comments on delhi…and india overall. from indians the defense, and from foreigners the…the understanding of \’lee\’. i do not want to imply my opinions or anything…but i would just advise anyone who is reading this site and forming their opinions to just…visit delhi…and be sure that you know someone…so that you will be able to enjoy as much as you see…even if you will have to go through all of those sad things. yeah…it\’s not so good…but yeah…if you\’re wid da right ppl and go to the right places…u are bound to experience the true india…not from foreign eyes…but from the true essence of india…from the indian\’s point of view. nobody can get bored there…that i can say with complete confidence…

  21. Well said…visit Delhi and form your own opinion. It certainly isn’t boring thats exactly right. Again, my article was on my experience during that trip. I will be back in Delhi at some point and will have a totally different experience. Good or bad though it is quite a place to behold.

  22. This article, whilst I believe completely honest, did disappoint me somewhat, because I do love Delhi, have returned several times over the past few years and feel somewhat protective of the place!

    I do remember being somewhat shocked by the state of smallish towns when driving out of Delhi on my first trip to India; how old and decrepit everything looked. But you know it’s nothing compared to a Bolivian slum.

    Give Delhi- and India- a few weeks and its beauty shines through. Unless you’re expecting things to be as they are at home, in which case probably best to stay at home in the first place!

    alen – your first comment reads as borderline racist. India does have many of the problems you mention, but you seem to loathe an entire nation. This isn’t helpful or fair.

  23. Karuna, I have lots of Indian friends and what I’m stating is not racist at all to all the Indians. Like Tarun said:

    “India is dirty,corrupt and hygiene takes a back seat.Not to mention,people are generally greedy.”

    Anyway, I would like to read a study about different nations’ ability to smell stench. What I believe is that Indians developed this culture of non hygiene and living in dirt because their sense of smell is different from that of the westerners’.

    In Vasant Vihar there is a public toilet on the crossing by the D block market. Stench is so bad, that 100m away you feel headache from it. Having said that, locals don’t seem to bother at all. There is even a school for rich kids nearby, and they are chatting and spending time right next to that toilet.

    Smell is important factor of protection and the fact is, westerners who eat on the street get sick, Indians don’t. Westerners smell stench (i.e. danger), Indians don’t.

    Again, the greed an lying go well together, so I think Indians are generally lying a lot due to greed. That is somewhat acceptable once you understand Indian culture. I heard from Indians that in Bhagavad Gita, back stabbing, lying and greed are though to be virtues and people should behave in that way, and the only thing that matters is power and that goal justifies the means. So if religious moral authority is teaching this for centuries, of course it is acceptable in the society.

  24. Graham Richard. says:

    Sounds a bit like Bogota to the extreme.

  25. Thank you all for your inspiring comments. I am on my way to Delhi for my first trip to India and leave this coming Wednesday.
    With such a wide range of experiences and reflections from you I am going in the belief that the quality of my experience out there will be determined to some degree by how open I am to seeing all aspects of the city. Being careful not to define the City (or the country for that matter) by the limited observations over two weeks and with only one pair of eyes.

    Thanks again and, what some of you say is true, I really look forward to meeting some interesting, inspiring and enlightening folks over there.

    Iain

  26. After having read through all the articles about my hometown.. I’d like to give an attempt to put things in the right perspective.. Delhi now has been in the process of getting overhauled and facelifted radically in terms of infrastructure, transportation system (it has metro rail..sophisticated buses, luxury cabs and now we’re talking about monorail), outlook and so forth.. all the filthy habbits of people will soon be a thing of past with the help of a lot of initiatives taken by the goverment in the direction of improving public behavior, sensitivity and traffic rules’ obediance.. the atmosphere is gonna be much cleaner with more more vehicles switching over to CNG.. Delhi will soon be host to the commonwealth games and the first formula one race in India.. efforts are also being made to clean the old parts of the city while keeping its old charm intact.. all of the above coupled with the rich heritage and cultural diversity of the city would make it a true paradise to experience.. so my advise to all the readers is not to let a one dimensional view point color their vision about the city for you may miss a truly unique and world class experience should you decide to take the city off your travel agenda..

  27. I agree with the description of paharganj but you have highlighted it too much as if the whole delhi is like that ….. delhi is rich in history and culture … there is a world within delhi .it has been capital of many rulers since 1200 AD there are so many things one can do.”NEW DELHI ” is one of the greenest capital in Asia , delhi has three world heritage sites including “red fort , humayon tomb and qutub minar” and number of historical sites. as far as weather is concerend it is too hot and humid in summer and too cold in winters when everything is covered under fog (usually from mid december to mid of january ). winds from western state of rajasthan(thar desert) carries dust and sand which adds to the pollution but that doesnot stop tourist from pouring in from all over the world… best time is oct nov and feb march otherwise come prepared.well delhi is undergoing a makeover for commonwealth games hopefully you will find it a better place next time…and for others who want to see how past present and future coexist visit delhi…

  28. well having read all this i just have to say onething..delhi–good or bad, indians-hygienic or not..wht we see today is a result of more than 600 years of brutal and prolonged plundering of assets by invaders from all around..right from the british to the mughals etc. and just 50 years of independence.(india was amongst the richest countries in the 13th century–for the record).wht we hv now is still not bad considering this plain fact..nd the good thing is that we are moving in the right direction..with this hope and confidence we walk past stenching toilets and dirt/filth ridden back lanes(which are not as many as we’hv been led to believe) that whn things get right (which they would sure do..ppl ARE on the job)..we wont hv to defend ourselves nemore…i hope i hvnt missed the point..in case i have..yeah delhi has some very beautiful places to explore and its people too are beautiful and cultured nd hv a very strong sense of smell too..unfortunate tht visitors tend to focus more on whts new for them(no matter how miniscule) rather than on all the magnificent spots the city has to offer..btw did anyone talk of how warm and affectionate people of this country are?..might just require a few aquaintances here and there and voila..here u go.

  29. Lee you’re right, but that’s exactly what makes Delhi a city I passionately love. It is crazy, it is madness and confusion and struggle and strife, every single day and it is beautiful, it is resilient and it lives and breathes every moment. It is alive and makes for great cinema. I absolutely love your description and couldn’t stop laughing. Come back to Delhi and give it another shot, its like soya, it tastes aweful in the beginning and you want to never drink it, but then the taste grows on you and you can’t live without it. Thank you for truly experiencing Delhi and its lifeline, and not hiding out in posh hotels on the periphery. Hope you give it another shot though, now that you’re a pro at dealing with it :)

  30. Hello everybody,
    I myself got back from India. Spent there 3 mos and I will say: this country is a mystery. No matter how much I disliked such things as polution, overpopulation, wild animals, men staring at you, poverty, noises, smells, rushing etc, there is something that is calling me back to this country. Not even sure what and that’s what a scary part. I hate this country and at the same time love it!!!!
    However, responding to Lee’s artile, I would suggest everybody to visit India. You will not regret, it just will enlighten you. Believe me!

  31. I totally agree, everybody should go and check it out…it’s fascinating and certainly keeps you on toes.

  32. If you thought Delhi was bad, try going to Bangalore or Mumbai :-)

  33. Miraculously,I revisited this page after all these months.And I would like to answer Alen about Indian people not caring about the stench.
    Well its not that Indians cant smell.The problem goes deeper.Its actually people just getting used to the way things are because they think its some ones else`s job and they have been pushed around for so long.First the people were exploited by their own kings ,then came the Muslim rulers and then the British,French and the Portuguese and at the end ,the current rulers.People have got used to corrupt rulers that don’t care.The people which are supposed to take care of the cleaning never show up to do their job.People have just given up and all that feeling has been passed on for generations.The result if in front of you.
    Look at china ,a country that hasn’t been invaded so much.A complete contrast,both are the oldest countries in the world.We had a drainage system and city planning and surgery when people in Europe were living in dark ages. And why on earth was India invaded so many times? for its riches off course.Imperialism by European countries can never be forgotten or forgiven.Life is a full circle.All the remains of a glorious past is dust and ashes.
    I have been living in Canada for 2 years and I cant claim to understand the culture here.I don’t see how anyone can understand the Indian culture in a trip,which is so complicated and has so many layers.A life time isn’t enough.

  34. Wow, thanks for the history lesson and I do agree with you that certainly understanding many cultures, especially one as complex as the Indian culture could take a lifetime if not a few!

  35. sida smith says:

    I have just returned from a 1 month trip to India,returning after 38 years (lived there in 1970 and 71)
    I spent a lot of time preparing myself…( for traffic, polution and extreme poverty)…I was fortunate to have a friend from the old days who could put me up at her home in Delhi and Goa.

    I surprised myself by being able to look past a lot of things from almost the beginning. If you look too close, the trip will be akin to aspiring to becoming Mother Theresa with not enough time in your life to make it happen
    I went with the attitude that it was me that had to fit into India and not the reverse…my dear hostess has never stopped saying “this is India my dear” the same mantra from 1970… when ever there is a disapointment, power outage, train schedule change, or misinformation.. etc.
    I have come back from the trip of my life…. have made a lot of progress in the practice of patience….and can hardly wait to get back.

    I must suggest that after a week in Delhi …head south asap…go to the wonderful spiritual places….see the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain caves..built as early as the 2nd century BC…then see the soft side of India in Kerala and Goa…..calm down….go to Varanasi.. important…in my mind….. then you go back to Delhi..and take another look….

    All the best for a wonderful experience…It’s up to you…S.

  36. Wait, Delhi is an inch better than Mumbai (Bombay). Bombay is crowded, traffic at snail’s pace, pollution creates migraine, poverty similar or quite possibly worse than Delhi. At least Delhi has control over Pollution due to state government regulations which none of the other cities in India could follow.

  37. Muntu Mkubwa says:

    I disagree that the problems in India are the result of colonialism and past invasions. This is the same excuse used on my continent, Africa. Also, the orderliness of China, as compared to India, is a result of present day authoritarian rule in China. Not, as one contributor wrote, because China hasn’t been ravaged by invaders as India has been.

  38. Mate,

    India a country of 100 billion people still works and runs, and that too with its people enjoying absolute freedom under a safe, secure and harmonious social environment. With all its problems, the country maintains its sensibility unlike many other failed states under guardianship of some other powers. In spite of all its poverty, it has been able to stringently guard its independence, pride and its non-aligned status without falling into trap of financial charity aid from others. It is commendable, under sabotaging sanctions from certain superpowers, it has steadily been able to progress on all fronts of economy, science and technology including space and lunar missions to match with that of other so called economically superior countries.
    No offense meant.

    Kindly help convince your country to let countries like India and others be given conducive environment to progress at an independent, faster and peaceful pace. I am sure you wont have complaints visiting places like Paharganj within next 10 years.

  39. Welcome to India. Bring lots of money, and enjoy 6 star hospitality. Be elite and meet exclusive elites.
    If you have no money, don’t worry, still welcome, stay in Paharganj, but don’t complain.

    (sorry I mixed millions and billions in my previous post, figure is 1 Billiion (1000000000).

  40. Hi all,

    It’s indeed a very descriptive article on life @ delhi. To a great extent it is true considering pollution, population, traffic and civic amenities. But Delhi is one of the most colourful, sensual, receptive and interesting places on earth. I am delhihite but living in west but i miss the maddness of delhi, there’s always something to explore at the next corner, something to bargain at next stop, or something to try at delicioures all over delhi. It takes quite getting used to Delhi and Old Delhi areas like Pahar Ganj in particular is not just the place for someone from west. Delhi is a cultural potpourri, and believe me you can enjoy one of the best lifestyles if you got green bucks. Its a simple place daunted by explosive growth from immigrants from neighboring places for the worse, but the problem is confined to limited places not all over delhi NCR region.It is definitely worth a visit for an adventurous traveler, and once you get along the pace of the city you will find the real face of simplicity, amazement of true happiness and diversity and just not the Black and white of the west.

  41. Hey Lee,

    I really like your website with so much information from around the world. But i was somewhat saddened by the way you described Delhi. Without intending to be offensive i would still say that you have been unfair to this great historic city.

    Every city has places which are not picture perfect and so is the case with Delhi or any other city. But i have seen pretty good places in this nice city….
    Humayun Tomb
    Red Fort
    Akshardham Templae
    India Gate
    Central Vista near Raisana Hill
    Green New Delhi
    Safdarjung Tomb
    Qutab Minar
    and list can go on….

    Lee if you are living at a cheap place like Paharganj which in no doubt is dirty and smelly…. What else can you expect.

    New Delhi is full of Splurge hotels which would have been a good stay. Anyways i have been just back from Delhi and i must say its a pretty good place to visit with all its beautiful monuments.

  42. Hey Ajay, I agree that staying in Pahar Ganj was a poor decision and there are plenty of nice places in Delhi. This story I wrote in 2005 was based on my experience-good or bad, this is what I saw and did that time. I have just returned from 3 weeks in India and stayed in nice hotels much of the time and enjoyed my stays much more. I am not a reporter that covers everything and I don’t sugarcoat if I don’t like something, I blog about my experiences and my opinions based on my time in a place. I know Delhi could be enjoyed much more staying in a better area and not backpacking as I just did in other parts of India. Take care and thx for the comment.

  43. I thought all racists were dead but then I read comments from alen about stench immune Indians and how Gita teaches people to steal etc etc….
    having issue with a bad system is very very different from being prejudiced to the point of racism. however thats the way most people in west tend to see things in east. a convenient general picture be it about india or middle east or china.
    I wonder by the same analogy what these people might think of average american ladies knowing the fact that most XXX movies are made in US ??????

  44. how can people talk such crap….do u realy read gita

    >>>>

    Again, the greed an lying go well together, so I think Indians are generally lying a lot due to greed. That is somewhat acceptable once you understand Indian culture. I heard from Indians that in Bhagavad Gita, back stabbing, lying and greed are though to be virtues and people should behave in that way, and the only thing that matters is power and that goal justifies the means. So if religious moral authority is teaching this for centuries, of course it is acceptable in the society.

  45. I totally agree with your comment, I Hated Delhi since i left the airport and was almost robbed.

  46. I totally agree with your article, Delhi literally forces you to react to what you experience (ie you can’t just quietly contemplate it). I then felt the shame of accepting that what I felt most of all was disgust and a wish to be elsewhere.

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