India is considered a country of contrasts – and as I have often said, I am particularly fascinated by the simultaneity and spatial proximity. In Chanakyapuri, where my cousin lives and where I have been staying, there is a small market area. A number of mini shops offer a wide range of cheap things like hairdressing, tailoring, food, mobile phone accessories and so on. There are also very chic restaurants and a newly opened yoga studio with a restaurant. The tea in the yoga studio costs more than 10 times as much as the tea on the street. The offer is therefore tailored to the “rich diplomats” and whoever else from the upper class lives here – and their employees. 2 visible coexisting worlds. Exciting to watch.
Late at noon, I had a meeting with a woman from the Facebook group “Host a Sister”. Her name is Mokshika, she lives with her brother with her parents in Noida and is studying chemistry with a focus on environmental chemistry – 1 year in France, 1 year in Germany (Leipzig). She has now completed her studies and a doctorate is her next goal. She would like to achieve that in Germany, too, because she likes it there in principle. But now she was on a long family visit and wanted to see who else she could meet. We met in a very popular full restaurant in Connaught Place, which also offered cakes. All expensive, but also very tasty.
I drove to a supermarket to buy spices and then I experienced something that topped my life in Delhi so far. It was getting dark, the street in front of the supermarket was very crowded – and I couldn’t find a ride home! Vehicles ordered from Ola were not moving (later I thought it was probably due to traffic jams). Directly stopped autorickshaws flatly refused to give me a ride when I gave the destination. “Time Out” was the explanation, which I didn’t understand, but later explained to me that they must have had too many traffic jams on the route and since you pay for distance and not time, it was relatively too little service for them. Only one made me an offer: 3 x as much as the route actually costs. I walked along the road, it stank, it was full of exhaust fumes, it was noisy as shit, it was very unpleasant. A little further on was a crossroads, but there was nothing there either.
At some point I changed my destination and asked a rickshaw driver to simply take me to the next metro station. He refused, but offered me another, namely New Delhi Railway Metro station. I agreed: just get out of here. In the meantime, headache set in. His price was OK and so we crept to the big station. There was a traffic-calmed zone around it – a little sigh of relief and musing. In the crowded streets, begging people kept coming up to the vehicles and I thought: how creepy, every day in those awful exhaust fumes. At the train station there were also some squatting around and I thought: well, they have it a bit better. A higher class of beggars? On the streets there were also masses of two-wheelers, towed carts, autorickshaws – just about anything where people are exposed to these exhaust fumes (there were also closed cars, they had it best). Day after day. And at the side of the road there were shops, repair workshops, warehouses, manufactories, stalls – in any case, all places where people were exposed to exhaust fumes and noise all day long. And those on the road spent even more time on the road because of all the traffic jams. In Delhi, the traffic is constantly at a standstill, or rather, it is not at a standstill, but honks and rattles. The metro can be an alternative, but it doesn’t go everywhere (there isn’t one in Chanakyapuri, the diplomatic quarter), you can’t transport anything and even if it runs every three minutes, especially at rush hour, it is so packed that you often have trouble getting in at all.
At the train station I found a prepaid taxi stand: taxi would not go to Chanakyapuri, but Rickshaw! Now I could go. I booked, I drove – in the end it took me 2 hours for what was actually a 20-30 minute journey. I was headachy, dizzy and exhausted.
The next day, however, I had to/wanted to get back on the road and visit Siddharth and family. I was luckier: it’s not so busy at 9am:
We chatted and had a good, too short time together. During that time, however, an event with the neighbour came up for the next day. And then I had to leave again for a meeting with Sylvie. She had been in India almost at the same time as me, but had been travelling by motorbike in Uttarakhand. And funnily enough, we had a return flight on the same day with only 30 minutes of different departure time. But first we had to meet to talk and eat. The Potbelly offered Bihar cuisine – tasty in principle, but a bit too spicy for me. Sylvie was easier to please.
I always find it fun and also special to meet people from somewhere else here. That is, without travelling together with them. But it’s a good way to talk to each other, it’s almost like being in the pub next door – but everything is different outside. And so it was cosy and nice together and we arranged to meet at the airport the next day.
With my cousin and his wife I also had some conversations – but then it was more about family stories. Anyway, I realised how pleasant it is to have familiar people around me. And then I went to bed to get up at 4:45 the next day. Despite pessimistic forecasts, an auto rickshaw quickly arrived and drove me through the late night to a completely different area of Delhi.
In Pitampura, Veena, the neighbour of Siddharth and Jas, welcomed me with her husband. We got into the car and went at the ex-Japanese park at 6:30. There was already a hustle and bustle of different people. A small group had gathered on a lawn and we joined them: The Laugh Club! New people were joining all the time, there were probably about 40-50 people. They stood in a circle, did light physical exercises that were accompanied by a hahaha laugh and after each exercise they clapped their hands and shouted “very good”, “very good” and “yeah”, with only the thumbs going up at first and then the whole arms the second time.
I found it very funny, on the one hand absurd, on the other hand also warm and touching. Because they were a very very lovely group and then they always start their day like that! They know each other, they like each other. In Germany it is impossible to find so many people over so many years to do something together so regularly. They were very kind to me and I was able to do all the exercises. After the laughing exercises, three people came with a small music system, snappy music was turned on and a lady and later a gentleman jumped around at a fast pace and made dance moves. In short: Zumba Dance! I tried very hard to perform correctly and quickly worked up a good sweat.
Afterwards, there was still time for small talks and lots of photos.
Then we drove back and I had another coconut juice in the car and delicious gobi parantha for breakfast. I was in a very good mood and I really liked India again. I regretted having to leave already. But first I went back to my cousin’s house, where I had a last lunch with him and his wife Shoko.
In my Delhi days, I was not at all in the mood for photography, but enjoyed the experiences very much. Then to the airport, where I met Sylvie, we had coffee and cake together and then I flew off and the trip was over.
Delhi is really difficult. The people are great – someone I know is always there. But at times this heat! At other times this air pollution! And these miserably long roads and traffic jams! I’ve often been asked when I’m coming back. I have no idea – I hope that not too much time will pass.