Tuk tuk

Loaded up – all 6’4″ of Tom, me, his very respectably packed day sack and my hero-in-a-half-shell super sack – heading for the Old Delhi train station at dusk, as fast as three wheels, a hairdryer engine and a chubby old man with a funny mustache could carry us.  Maybe it’s not surprising that sometimes the ‘in transit’ part of being a tourist can be the most exhilarating, eye-opening and fun?

Blurry image of a tuk tuk going through dustry streets

A tuk tuk whizzes off in cleaner, safer, less crowded New Delhi. Unfortunately we were too busy holding on for dear life to take snaps riding through Old Delhi!

Beyond the gridlocked carriageway, dimly lit curbs laced with oddly placed neon lights, tea shacks, small industrial workshops and cafes passed by.  The medley roadside blurred into the traffic, made up of all sorts of moving objects, both animal and engineered.  Every single one ringing, blaring, honking or hooting.  Indicators, when present, are a weak second, where the noise emitted dictates both direction and priority.  Pot holes added to the fun; bumping us about and teetering our luggage precariously over the edge of the auto-rickshaw.  Dust, evening heat, dogs barking, thick exhaust fumes and smells that varied from stomach tantalising to wretch lobbying, left us sweatily clasping hands as we tried to navigate a strange kind of euphoric fear.

After 10 years of nurturing an interest in Indian culture, I’d often seen scenes like this on documentaries, movies and pictured in books.  There had been many times when I’d vividly imagined myself traveling in this way through iconic Indian streets.  Now actually there, I stared at it all in disbelief thinking that it couldn’t be real.

Tom & I were silent for most of the journey, totally consumed in the experience, but I have to admit that we did flippantly comment that a ride though Old Delhi in a tuk tuk beat any adrenalin-junkie amusement at a theme park.  It was awesome!  Hopefully this doesn’t belittle the hardened men and women for whom this method of transport is normal life, or should I say life and death?

To enjoy India, it strikes me that you need to abandon your sense of danger somewhat and just embrace your sense of adventure.  It made me think of my Dad, a man who takes little notice of hazards, has profound faith that everything will turn out well in the end, and with great enthusiasm for the unknown.  He’d love it out here.  It also brought back fond memories of the ‘In God We Trust’ inscriptions across the back windows of dubiously engineered and piloted long distance coaches in Tanzania.   There is also the Muslim word ‘inshallah’, loosely meaning ‘if God wills it’, which is often used in answer to all sorts of questions or tagged on the end of statements.  By placing an outcome in the hands of faith, lack of control or planning can easily be accepted.  The English are terrible for trying to foresee and cater for every eventuality, which seems to me to cause stress and take up a lot of time.  Out here, I’m pretty excited about  relaxing into an unplanned lifestyle and just seeing what happens. (Mum – Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean compromising on safety!)

Tom on the train surrounded by compartments

Safely seated on the train to Pathankot

This time, as it happened, we ended up at Old Delhi train station as planned and with plenty of time to spare before our departure.  Inside the huge hanger, a friendly young chap looked at our ticket and made up a completely incorrect platform number for us to wait at.  This was not out of malice; he wanted to help us but didn’t know the right information, so he just made it up.  Love it!  Luckily it’s quite transparent when this happens so we thanked him, wished each other safe travels and then walked off in search of someone who was genuinely informed.

The train was another experience in itself; our carriage mostly contained 3 tiered bunk-beds.  After a bit of a kerfuffle about whether our tickets were on the top or bottom, we settled down for the night.  The thing that astounded me was the level consideration for one another in this tightly packed space.  To start with it was a noisy hub of activity with people chatting, laughing and eating their packed meals.  Then suddenly, as if a boarding school matron had cried “Lights out!”, everybody simultaneously settled into silence, enabling all to get their beauty sleep.  That is, as long as you could shut out the loud ‘clackety-clack’ of the train wheels, something, that as newcomers, Tom & I found very difficult.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by sarah j on October 25, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    AAaaah Tuk Tuks! My fave way to travel.. imagine if we had these in stratford upon avon.. how much fun a tuk tuk ride home would be.. cheap, friendly, and just as much fun as the whole night out!!! In fact i would be looking forward to that ride the most.

    It sounds like your having a fantastic time in India so far! I always get excited when i get an email through from this site… i get to spy on you and see what your up to!! Its so cool!

    Tor you’re so good at writing… its written so beautifully!!! The picture you create in ones mind is fantastic!!

    Keep smiling guys.. glad to hear your enjoying your adventure!

    Miss you lots and lots though!
    Big hugs and smiles!!

    Sarah xxxx


  2. Posted by Ellie on October 25, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Wow! i just love reading ur stories, you make me feel like i could actually be there and you make me chuckle from start to finish! Im so glad all its going well for you both! I cant wait 2 read ur next update/story/bulletin/anacdote etc etc I love u so much my dearest! xxxxxxx


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