Category Archives: what is this place?

what is this place?: arrival


i’ve covered a number of topics in my 10 blogs thus far, but what i have yet to fully discuss is the “big picture” of what it means to experience India. it’s taken me this long to fully appreciate and gain an understanding of what exactly is going on around me, so i’m making this a series of posts dedicated to various experiences ingrained in daily lives of Indians which can initially be quite shocking coming from a Western society.

India is NOT for the faint of heart.

there. i’ve said it.

don’t get me wrong, i love this place and am very happy with my decision and luck to be able to stay for a while. but i won’t say it’s been easy.

for me, the first overwhelming experience was changing planes in the Delhi airport for the first time. as i had booked my international flights separately from my domestic Indian ones, i had to do this switch on my own accord.

quick aside: the Delhi airport consists of 3 terminals (one international, two domestic) which one must navigate by ground transportation in the form of a bus or taxi. if someone books a flight straight through with the same airline, the airlines arrange a bus transfer from one terminal to the next so people don’t miss connections. for the rest of us, the pre-paid taxi service is your best bet.
as i had put myself into the i-want-to-convince-myself-that-booking-with-an-economy-airline-really-is-cheaper-than-the-connection category, i was on my own.

customs and collecting my baggage all went smoothly and i even put on a happy face after falling directly on my bum the first time i tried to pick up and wear my oversized backpack. i found the counter for the prepaid taxis, paid with my freshly exchanged rupees, and walked toward the exit, receipt in hand.

through all of this, more and more nervous anxiety for my impending collision with India was building. as I walked through the automatic doors and into this new place, the thing I still remember most clearly was one of the last things i expected to shock me. the heat. i knew India was a hot place and took it as a given, but the wall of thick, blistering air i felt upon leaving the airport was like nothing i’d ever felt before. it was suffocating.

i have no idea what the temperature was that day, but it wouldn’t matter anyway because it was simply the kind of heat that can knock you out in one punch. i could feel it weighing my body down as soon as i stepped into it and even the ground beneath my feet (which was shaded) felt hot through my shoe. the objects around me radiated a kind of heat which would normally inform my instincts that i shouldn’t continue touching that thing for too much longer. like that point just before a curling iron is hot enough to burn skin. because of my limited physical experience with this intense level of heat outside of the kitchen, i had to consciously tell my brain that the items were not actually going to instantaneously burn me.

getting into the cab to take me from the international to the domestic terminal was not encouraging. the doors and roof of the tiny car were paper-thin and nearly rusted through.

the chaotic ride gave me my first glimpse of ground-level India in which i saw, in the middle of a highway, mind you, cows, in addition to lungi-clad construction workers in flip-flops and button-down shirts. all the while, a giant hair dryer blew in on me through every window.

welcome to India. namaste!


import: food


thus far, food has been somewhat difficult to describe as i generally am uncertain as to exactly what it is that i am eating. i am nearly certain that i am essentially vegetarian at this point. some of the vegetables are recognizable; peas, carrots, green beans, some sort of potato, chic peas, okra… the rest are generally unknown. one that i now know the “common” name of is drumsticks… some sort of stem which is stewed until the inside is soft. the first time i had it, i clearly had no idea how to eat it… the outer layer is extremely fibrous, not meant to be eaten, and impossible to chew (as i found the hard way). the proper way to eat it is to slice open one side (which comes easily after it’s stewed) and pull the soft inside out with your teeth or a spoon. the second time i had it someone instructed me and it was a relatively generic, soft green thing, slightly like well-cooked green beans.

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import: flight


nearly there. all i have left is to find the christel house driver when i get to Bangalore. thank goodness the 14 hours to Delhi was relatively uneventful, even comfortable 🙂

arrival in DEL was pleasant getting off the plane, the international airport was very nice and nearly deserted. i took the chance to change into my linen pants and use the restroom while they still looked nice (and they were). the stalls were even larger than the ones in O’Hare.

i exchanged my cash for Rupees, stopped at the prepaid taxi stand inside then headed through the doors to find my cab…

as i headed out, i straightened myself, trying to look confident like i knew what i was doing. upon stepping through the doors, i felt the blast of what felt like 1,000 hair dryers pointed directly at me. i don’t think i’ve ever felt this kind of heat before. it was like being followed too closely by a hot charcoal grill.

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