I thought I was prepared for India. I had researched for months and got tips from those who had already been, bought and packed everything we could possibly need; but I don’t think anything can really prepare you for this place.
It isn’t the culture shock of this country that is so different to England or anywhere else I’ve ever been. I tend to thrive on culture shocks and like to go to places that are as different as possible to what I am used to, but India is on another level!
Arriving in Delhi, the first thing you notice are the people. And I don’t mean a few people milling about here and there. I mean people. A lot of people. Everywhere. People spilling out of shop doors; people walking along the pavements and the roads; people setting up food and chai stalls or barber shops along the curb; people sitting in the street just watching the world go by.
And it’s not only the people – animals too. Dogs and cats dart in between people and vehicles; goats stand at the side of the road munching on a pile of vegetables; monkeys jump along the roofs occasionally throwing something down into the street; and the cows casually stroll along the street or take a nap in the middle of the road expecting everyone to move out of their way. Bumping into a person, animal or vehicle is inevitable! I thought London was busy with the constant rush of people going to and from work and tourists doing their daily sightseeing but now London seems sparse in comparision!
And the traffic. I could write a whole blog post on the traffic alone! It is safe to say that if you have ever driven in India you are one brave but very crazy person! You’ll see entire families all packed onto one motorbike; bikes carrying stock big enough that it could squish someone if it toppled over; and rickhaws and tuk tuks squeezing as many people in as possible.
Vehicles of all shapes and sizes fill every single road. And I don’t mean fill in the normal sense – I mean there is literally no space for anything else. Bumper to bonnet, every vehicle will squeeze as close to the one in front as possible, all noisily honking their horns at each other even though there’s nowhere for them to go.
People and animals weave in and out of the traffic, climbing over bikes and wheels to get across the road, and I often found myself saying hello to children in the tuk tuk next to me they were so close!
At first we couldn’t quite believe it but that’s just the way things work here and after a few hours we were soon joining all these crazy people squeezing in between the vehicles. You won’t get anywhere by standing at the side of the road waiting for a gap in the continual flow of traffic.
Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of road accidents. Not only is it difficult to actually gather any speed due to there being so much traffic in front of you, but everyone seems to know exactly what they’re doing. You might think your tuk tuk driver is about to crash into another vehicle that’s driving in completely the wrong direction, but they’ll both swerve at the last minute and narrowly avoid each other. And you might want to shout out to the person who is about to get run over by a car coming from one way and a bike from the other but, don’t worry, he will somehow manage to squeeze in between the two, just about avoiding getting his feet run over. And if there is an accident, like when our driver knocked a boy off his bike, they just get back up, smile and carry on their way as if this is perfectly normal!
It might be chaos but it’s an organised chaos. It just works. And this chaos it what makes India the buzzing, noisy, chaotic and extremely crazy place that it is.