Or: A Rickshaw ride through the chaos that is Old Delhi
It’s not just a tourist thing. Locals travel this way. I’ve seen them, saris and all. Or sarees, which is another spelling I’ve seen.
You’d think it would take a huge amount of muscle to bicycle a rickshaw with one or two (or more) people in it. It does, but these drivers were all slim and probably, under their dirty clothes, tautly made. Oh-so-fit.
The job looked like quite a workout, and all the while they were breathing thick, filthy Delhi smog. Delhi has one of the worst air quality indexes in the world and I imagine these drivers die young because of it. Or because of some other third-world scourge. That’s the kind of sobering thought I had every day, followed quickly by a prayer of gratitude for my own life.
Delhi is made of two sections. New Delhi rivals any contemporary city in the first world, almost, anyway. It’s the nerve center of India, the center of commerce and it looks like no other city we saw in the northern Triangle. It’s clean. Modern. No cows or other livestock on its roads. No excrement of any kind. People still sat on some of the sidewalks on the edge of the street in places, just like in the country (where they sat on dirt) but for the most part New Delhi looked like any other modern city.
And then there’s old Delhi, which looks pretty much like every crazy, dirty city we’ve seen. Except I don’t think I saw people living in tents on dirt. On this day we took a rickshaw ride through the souk of Old Delhi, getting up close and personal with the neighborhood.
Some of the rickshaw seats slanted downhill. I didn’t want one of those, so I made sure we climbed aboard one that seemed somewhat level. Here’s a “before” video, giving you a good look at the fray we were about to enter:
And then, we took off into the pandemonium. I felt a little…vulnerable. Heres’s some video:
I felt a little sorry for our driver, who pumped hard to propel us along. Fortunately, his laboring meant our pace was slow and our safety more assured. Somewhat, anyway. Not guaranteed. As you can see in this vid.
The ride through the souk was mercifully short. But interesting and colorful:
We saw all kinds of things. Including potential dinner. I got closer to total vegetarianism than ever on this trip, as I watched people choose their chicken dinner, live, and then have it butchered.
Later, I was talking with the woman who was our local guide in Delhi.
“People have asked me, ‘do you come to Old Delhi to shop?’” She laughed. “I say, ‘what, has the mad dog bitten me? Why on earth would I do that?’”
Note to self: Use “Has the mad dog bitten me?” as much as possible in conversation.