First impressions of Delhi

Tom described arriving in Delhi as “like being dropped into a bowl of thick soup… stirred at speed by an invisible spoon”, a great analogy of our encounter with the city.

Blurry hot Delhi night

Well-intentioned friends and guidebooks try to describe what to expect or to prepare you for landing in the middle of the ‘thick soup’ at the mercy of the ‘invisible spoon’.  However, it seems that no two pairs of eyes perceive Delhi in the same light.  A magically dynamic place, the rate of metamorphosis makes it plausible for outsiders to stand at the same site, seconds apart, and experience a different city altogether.  Just twenty four hours experience of Delhi made it clear that there is no single way to summarise the vista, people or general feel of being there.

Surprisingly, given numerous severe warnings about chaos, filth and deceit, I found it possible for newcomers to India to enjoy the city.  The reality for me was gentler and less intimidating than expected.   We struck gold with our hotel, the Grand Park Inn in Karol Bagh.  More pricey than planned for the rest of the trip, but worth every penny staying somewhere above the ‘budget’ range.  We booked in advance and would have been picked-up at the airport had it not been for a misunderstanding.  The place was sparkly clean with friendly staff that went over and above the call of duty to help us.  Room service meant that we could sample our first Thalis in the cool, quiet, safety of the room.

A disappointed Tor stands next to a billboard of the Commonwealth Games mascot

Disappointment at the Commies for 1 unhappy Brit

Aiming for a relaxed transit into Indian life, we planned one excursion in Delhi, to the Diving Finals at the Commonwealth Games.  Saying planned, I mean agreed really, we hadn’t booked tickets in advance; the empty seats all over the TV seemed like a green light to just turn up and buy tickets on the gate.  On arrival, a giggling Games official told us that all tickets sold out a week in advance and joked with us for being late.

So the afternoon passed by wandering the streets of New Delhi and eating.  This part of the city is undergoing radical development and modernisation.  The metro system is impressively efficient and only dissimilar from the acclaimed Barcelona metro by its smaller scale.  As expected, there are Levi, Adidas, McDonalds, KFC and other massive global brands dominating the shop fronts on the main square.  Sadly, in a few years time, I expect the streets of the modern part of the city will be indistinguishable from the cloned, clinical streets of Europe and the US.

My advice to a first-timer to India arriving in Delhi would be to take heed of practical advice but keep an open mind. Secure good accommodation as a retreat when things get overwhelming, it is definitely worthwhile.  We were only there for one day and returning for a flight home next year so we avoided Old Delhi for the most part and from what I can gather this was probably good judgment, although it denied us the most lively and authentic part of the city.  A short stay was also appreciated because I’m not sure we would have endured the city’s pace well, especially after a long flight.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Steph (Mumsicles) on October 19, 2010 at 2:01 am

    Wow, sounds exciting, understandable that the short stay in the busy hustle and bustle is enough at this stage. On to new places, sights and experiences! Enjoy both! XXX

    Reply

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