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Dangeling About

Delhi, Day One: Part 3

INDIA | Sunday, 16 April 2017 | Views [442]

The road home. Or how Corey got his groove back.


With the setting sun, the temperature is less oppressive. And either I've adjusted to the smell, or whatever fuel was burning is exhausted. Or maybe, Lord Ganesh has granted this foreigner a brief respite … a tiny thali serving of calm. How long will this feeling last?


In the immortal words of the Kinks, “paranoia will destroy ya” and I'm meditating on this message as we take advantage of the evening water show distraction factor to retrieve our kit from the coat check. It's getting dark and the dreaded scourge of humid evenings buzz about cruising for their sanguine supper. I haven't yet started my anti malarial pills either so the sooner we book it to the sterile safety of our hotel the better.


Retracing our steps to the entrance we find our egress blocked. Bzzzt. Smack. No soup for you Mosquito! And now we must backtrack through the garden and more ‘skeeters. Yipes. “Don't panic,” I repeat internally, “the risk of malaria in the city this time of year is, according to the CDC, extremely low.” I have complete faith in math and science. I'll be just fine but I'd prefer to not test the odds.


Anna suggests looking for a gift shop because exits and gift shops are like papadams and chutney, always served together. She’s right and our faith in commerce is rewarded by a mosquito free trek through well lit paths. Our faith in security is also rewarded as the exchange of our locker token produces our deposited gear completely in tact if not a little dusty.


And now for the real test: Securing a ride home. It's crazy how worked up I got in my first attempt at transportation in India. I've taxied in LA, NewYork, Chicago, London, and Paris and I've used Uber and Lyft in those same cities. These apps make getting a ride almost effortless. But add 30 degrees F to the thermometer, 40db to the ambient noise level, quadruple the busiest foot traffic you've ever seen, and octuple the traffic (they fit a lot of tuk tucks and scooters in the space of one luxury SUV I tell ya) and it's just unsettling. It's like you know how to roller skate but now you have to do it on a trampoline juggling hedgehogs balancing a glass of water on your head. Oh and then there are people shouting at you, constantly trying to sell you something or begging for food for their babies. That part just sucks by the way.


So we make our way out past the security stations and onto the street. The raging river of traffic surges along so my first strategy is to find a place where 1) a car has a chance of stopping without destroying the space time continuum, and 2) we have a chance of entering said car without terminating our own precious subscription to said space time continuum. I eventually learn that the answer to these goals seem mutually exclusive. To 1) it's anywhere. Literally cars can and do stop anywhere. The second is nowhere. Which is partly due to the fact that cars will go anywhere, there is no ‘good’ place to stop. You can only hope to minimize the disruption.


I pick a place near a bus stop that looks accommodating, staring at my phone and initiating a ride request. We're matched with a driver not more than 50 meters away but heading the wrong way. It says two minutes to arrival, which is dubious given the 180 about face required across 8 lanes and 62 micro-lanes of traffic. But we're pointing in the direction we need our go so I know the driver will make the adjustment and come to us. In instances where we are on the wrong side, it will be us who has to wade through a sea of angry metal and unibody fiberglass.


Two minutes become eight and between declining multiple solicitations from Tuk Tuk drivers, dodging disfigured beggars, and repeating the license plate of our driver’s car I'm exhausted. By the time our rider pulls up I feel like the dog whose master has just arrived home after a long day of work.


Anna and I, again, slide across the bench seat into an air conditioned realm so much more familiar. “Hotel, boss?” our driver confirms. Yes. Yes! This is how it works … and away we go.

 

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