Notes From Delhi
There’s something so raw about this country that it almost feels unnatural. As a foreigner visiting India, especially as an American, there is a serious disconnect, or detachment rather, between the indigenous people who spend most of their lives in poverty on the streets and myself. They are foreigners to me as I am to them. They stare and I smile, but they don’t smile back. Their faces have the same expression all over – a kind of stoic, blank glare. In some ways, it almost feels like I don’t have a right to be here. Here I am, a privileged American traveler, invading their lives and sucking in their culture for mostly selfish purposes to benefit my own personal growth. Here I am, a privileged American traveler, snapping pictures away on my new Olympus camera so I have something to show my friends and family back home. But these people don’t want to be photographed – many of them genuinely believe that with each press of a shutter, a bit of their soul is captured. They let me photograph them anyway, but I know I’m intruding. I am not welcome. A country in the Far East, all is foreign and fascinating. Every moment is a photographic moment – even a completely unimaginative and non-artistic person can capture a picture worthy of appearing in the National Geographic. This is India. There are moments where I find myself searching for hidden cameras; the slummier the neighborhood, the more I search for them. There’s such a stereotype in America’s portrayal of India (and other Asian countries) that I cannot help but feel at times that I’m in the middle of a Hollywood movie set. I admit that in these moments, I have fell victim to the media, but what you see on television about India really is not too far off from the realities of this country.
My flight to Delhi from Shanghai was delayed last minute by two hours. By last minute, I mean, everyone had already boarded the plane and buckled themselves in. This did not sit well with me, seeing as how I had just sat through a 13-hour flight to Shanghai from Los Angeles, and spent more than 3 hours at the Pudong airport waiting for my flight to Delhi. I was mentally and physically worn, and the fact that I had been ill on the flight to Shanghai certainly did not help my case. I tried to get some sleep, but sleep was near impossible. I was apprehensive and anxious – doubting the fact that I was going to physically survive the trip at all. And I missed you. Already, I missed you. Knowing that I would have very little direct communication with you for the next few weeks was not something I look forwarded to. And not knowing your plans or when I might see you again only made me restless to the point of nausea.
After a few hours of intense cabin fever, I arrived in Delhi. For the first time in what might have been the most grueling 24 hours of my life, I felt at ease and actually eager to greet what lie ahead. Except, what lied ahead at that very moment was the strangest looking creature I had ever seen in my life. It just kind of landed clumsily onto the air bridge from God-knows-where, two inches next to my very exposed left foot. It was an odd brownish-yellowish insect-like thing, the texture of its skin resembling a toad. It was completely alien. Needless to say, I did not care to stick around long enough to find out whether it was dangerous or not, or whether my mind was just playing tricks on me. I suppose it might very well have just been a leaf, but I’m pretty certain with the velocity and force it landed onto that air bridge, it had to be an animate thing.