India in Images: Delhi

I deboarded the airplane in Delhi just before midnight and entered a dingy, claustrophobic airport with walls tinted yellow from the constant smoke cloud hovering in the air. I rubbed my burning eyes and opened them to my name on a white piece of printer paper.

The husband of my first host from Couchsurfing.org, Nittin, was awaiting my arrival. Together we shared a taxi to where I hoped was his home. The reality of my decision to travel – alone – and stay with complete locals in a country recently plagued by various rape scandals (among other issues) finally sunk in as we turned down a deserted alley barely wider than our small car and then Nittin asked me to follow him into a dark, cement basement.

You’re so stupid, Jessica. Why didn’t you bring a friend? I could run, but it’s late, I have no idea where I am and everything is dark.

These were the thoughts running through my mind when, suddenly, a dark-skinned, saree-clad woman with a big smile blindsided me with a hug and a warm welcome. I took a deep breath.

“You must be Savita,” I said. She smiled and nodded, then showed me where I could sleep and hurriedly went to the kitchen to make chai – the (absolutely delicious!) traditional drink of India that is politely served to any guest entering one’s home, plus several other times throughout the day – and Maggie, the Indian brand of Top Ramen.

I slept well until an unrelenting pounding on the metal door sometime around 3am. Still unsure of my surroundings, this gave me reason to worry.

Now what? There’s a foot of open space between my room’s wall and the ceiling, a window with bars looking into the hallway, and a large door that barely locks. Welp. Nothing I can do now, I guess.

And somehow I fell back asleep. After a warm chai and a bucket of water that had been heated with a branding iron to constitute a shower the next morning, Nittin and I headed out to see the city. He apologized over a breakfast of spicy samosas for the obnoxious wake up call. It was city workers, delivering their weekly water supply for the two-family household.

“Delhi have water problem,” said Nittin. “But in Shimla where we go tomorrow, we have all water we want. You’ll see.”

At first, my one-day tour with Nittin left me wanting more. Everything from ox carts to spice sellers lined the narrow, crowded streets, and the in-your-face poverty and colorful houses built practically on top of each other down alleyways no wider than sidewalks (plus the fact that locals still attempt to drive cars, despite the constant stop, reverse and rearrange tactics necessary just to get to the main road) intrigued me.Indian Woman

But once I left Delhi and saw more of what India has to offer, I knew one day had been enough and I have no desire to return. However, with all my mind changes lately, I doubt any of you would be surprised if I did.

The India Gate, and delicious lime juice-filled fried cup things.

The India Gate, and delicious lime juice-filled fried cup things.

Delhi streets

This is the first home I stayed in. It was a typical two story, two family home where one lives on the top (roof) and the other lives in the basement. That's Nitin, my host who stays in the windowless basement.

This is the first home I stayed in. It was a typical two-story, two-family home where one lives on the top (roof) and the other lives in the basement. That’s Nittin, my host who stays in the windowless basement.

My first Couchsurf family - Nittin, Savita and little Kit Kat.

My first Couchsurf family – Nittin, Savita and little Kit Kat.

My room, which was really Nittin and Savita's room that they let me have.

My room, which was really Nittin and Savita’s room that they let me use.

The streets are crowded and noisy (everybody honks their horns) during the day, but at night it's quiet.

The streets are crowded and noisy (everybody honks their horns) during the day, but at night it’s quiet.

delhi city trafficDelhi India streetscrowded street delhi india

Just a normal market.

Just a normal market.

An ox pulling a wooden wagon. These were everywhere in Delhi.

An ox pulling a wooden wagon. These were everywhere in Delhi.

delhi temple indiaDelhi Marketdelhi india food marketdelhi children indiaIndia housing community

A closer look.

A closer look.

A typical residential street. This is where I stayed.

A typical residential street. This is where I stayed.

residential store delhi india

A very common store in residential areas.

Kids playing a makeshift game of the oh-so-popular cricket.

Kids playing a makeshift game of the oh-so-popular cricket.

Lotus Temple Delhi India

Seemingly out of place, the Lotus Temple is a new age phenomenon where followers of all religions are invited to come and pray.


India in Images: Delhi
Written by:Jessica J. Hill

23 Comments

  1. mishvo says:

    Amazing. Good on you for using couchsurfing and looks like it was entirely worth the initial uncertainty as well. Can’t wait to get myself to India. Can. Not. Wait.

    • jessicajhill says:

      I hope you get to go! It really is fascinating, though I can see how it’s not for everyone. I’d definitely recommend using Couchsurfing as it’s such a great way to experience a country/culture, and I had mostly great experiences. I had a few strange ones too, but nothing terrible.

  2. nicole says:

    Yeah! pictures! How amazing thanks Jessica

  3. That is pretty cool that you got to stay with locals there. I liked Delhi myself, even though it is filthy and chaotic – that was part of the charm for me.

    • jessicajhill says:

      Yeah, I think using Couchsurfing is really the best way to travel – you get to meet so many cool, local people. It’s rather rare to find a traveler who likes Delhi, thanks for sharing.

  4. Bhuwan says:

    Well I am a bit disappointed, you visited the city that I love so much, the city that I was born and lived all my life but you didn’t get to experience the amazing sights, sounds and smells of 🙁 … maybe next time…

    Delhi has many faces, and some of them are not as ‘filthy or chaotic’ as you and Jeff seems to have encountered. Feeling terrible for your bad experience.

  5. Jay says:

    Delhi has new modern and an amazingly clean airport now, so perhaps you can mention it, not scaring people contemplating going to India.
    You took a great photos, thanks. When looking for Hosts, try to find a variety of them. There are just as large differences in lifestyles in India as there are in the West. In U.S.A. you could stay with someone living in self-imposed gheto or someone in white welfare area, student sharing accommodation with 4 others or a mature professor at the University or Medical Doctor with their families living in an upscale neighbourhood. It is same in India.

    When we see only one type of lifestyle/neighbourhood, we could not see real India.

    • jessicajhill says:

      Hi, Jay. Thanks so much for your comment. This was my initial post about India, and I have written about it favorably in other posts. I left with a great love of your country, and a desire to return. I’ve written and published very favorable representations about my personal experiences there.

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