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February 29, 2008 » 5:47 pm

India First Impressions

My plane arrived in Delhi last night at about 9pm, local time. Other than lucking into some additional leg room, the flight was uneventful. I had carefully planned my 20 hours of travel so that by the time I arrived, I would be somewhat acclimated to the timezone. That meant eating and sleeping at designated times. I wasn’t quite able to stick to the sleeping plan, but I felt adequately tired when I arrived.    (MW3)

The India experience began as soon as I stepped off the plane and got a whiff of the air. The pollution here is extraordinary. The haze is palpable, even at night. I’m from L.A., which makes me a hardened smog veteran, but the smog here is ten times worse.    (MW4)

After picking up my bags and going through customs, I found my taxi driver from the hotel, and kicked things off with my first cultural faux pas. He stuck out his hand, and I shook it. He looked at me in surprise, then chuckled. He wasn’t introducing himself; he was asking for my bags.    (MW5)

Even though it was late, I got a good taste of the city on the ride to the hotel. It’s crowded here. Over 20 million people live in Delhi, almost double the population of L.A. in a slightly larger physical area. What I saw initially was generally run-down, with broken, dusty sidewalks dotted with stores, slums, and shacks. It reminded me of the slums of Tijuana.    (MW6)

You need to have a death wish to drive here. Lanes and stop signs are not instructions. They’re more like guidelines, and most people choose to ignore them. We almost took out several auto rickshaws, three-wheelers with trademark green and yellow sidings, and we were almost taken out ourselves by a large truck. About fifteen minutes into our drive, I spotted my first cow literally walking on the sidewalk. I knew to expect this, and I’ve seen pictures of this, but somehow, it amused me to see it for myself.    (MW7)

I arrived safely at the hotel, marveling that I was still alive. I’m staying at the Qutab Hotel, which is clean, comfortable, and modern. I went to bed at about 1:30am, exhausted, but pleased that I had tricked my body into thinking it was night. Or so I thought. Three hours later, I was wide awake. It’s about 2:30pm now. I’ve been running most of the day on adrenaline, and I’m starting to fade a bit, but I’m sure I can make it until evening. Maybe then, my body will finally be convinced that it’s night, and I can start feeling normal again.    (MW8)

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