The New Delhi train station is not exactly the most lively locale at five in the morning. And the journey there from the airport wasn’t exactly what one might consider a warm welcome to the country, but my expectations for India were high. Our pre-paid, ‘low hassle’ cab driver allowed a gentleman to enter the car who after figuring out what country we were from, started in on trying to convince us that he could get us a deal at a nearby hotel, “Good hotel, reasonably priced.” Eventually we realized that he didn’t understand that we had an overnight train booked for that evening and therefore, did not need a room.
Frustration seeped into the back seat as we continually told him ‘TAKE US TO THE TRAIN STATION, please’ and ‘NO we do NOT need a hotel, thanks’. After finally convincing our cab driver and our first tout to take us the the train station, we stepped out into the dark and dirty Delhi streets. A cow greeted us while picking through the garbage for a tasty morsel when it finally hit me that we had arrived.
With our backpacks on tight and a few hours of airplane sleep under our belts, we set to exploring the streets on foot while we waited for Delhi to awake. The city was completely unimaginable; I had never been anywhere so filthy in my life and I quickly realized that there were very few women to be seen. Men were selling food, making chai, washing laundry and cutting hair in the streets. But for every ten men I saw, there was maybe one woman. Talk about a shift from life at Wellesley…
Anyway, we spent the rest of our day exploring the Red Fort, which was run down and blanketed in smog, while waiting to brave the tourist ticket office at the Delhi train station. The best part of the day was the auto-rickshaw ride from the Red Fort to the train station. Neither one of us could figure out where we were or if we were even going in the right direction, but our slightly angry (or maybe frustrated?) driver was going to get there whether he had to drive around 30 cows or honk through all of the bike-rickshaw drivers in Delhi.
Waiting for our train was kind of like exploring another planet- I saw children get passed through windows while others shoved and threw elbows to get a better spot in line. We just barely realized that it was our train and jumped on before everything started moving, but we couldn’t figure out which car was ours. A cup of chai with a very friendly air fighter pilot and a loud car organizer later and we were at our bunks, with the five others sitting along with us.
The wise looking grandmother I sat next to had the most miraculous looking toes I had ever seen. I mean, how could they be so perfect after the ump-teen years she had spent living in India. I felt like there was a lot I could learn from this woman, but the only language we shared was ‘grin’. So we smiled away at each other and she blew me kisses as she left the train. It was midnight and there were only a few more hours left before we got off the train in Varanasi. It was an amazing first day in India, and I was ready for bed. There were so many extremes that I encountered on day one of our trip; from the garbage covering the streets and shared smiles on the train, I knew it was going to be an exciting journey.