I woke up this morning, and went out to fetch the Sunday paper. The moment I stepped out on our little terrace I knew it was going to be a tough day…the air was thick and heavy. The weather forecast in the paper said that it was to get to 35 degrees in Delhi today – which is over 100 degrees to those of you living in a Fahrenheit world. Today we had planned on hitting some of the good markets for shopping – but this meant being out in the middle of the day in the heat. I packed my water, sunscreen, sun hat, a granola bar and set off in an auto rickshaw to the first market armed with rupees. My roommates Lynn and Kate came along with me – as it’s always good to have extra people around for bargaining. It allows you to play the ‘good cop’/ ‘bad cop’ bargaining game.
Believe it or not – this was my first auto rickshaw ride in Delhi. Auto rickshaw’s are as common as yellow taxi’s in NYC…they are everywhere. They are basically a 3 wheeler motor scooter – and it’s not advised to take them for long distances as I think it would be rather painful, cramped, and slow. However – it was perfect for our short trip to the Dilli Haat Market. I realized very quickly that an auto rickshaw was most certainly one of the lowest vehicles on the totem pole of Delhi driving. As big buses, trucks and many cars whizzed by us, edging us over to the side – I felt a bit exposed…but our little motor scooter engine kept motoring away.
We bargained and shopped all afternoon amidst the heavy heat. India holds some of the best products and bargains I’ve seen in my travels to date! As the day went on, it became muggier and muggier. Sweat was rolling down my face, between my boobs. This was hard core shopping – nothing glamorous about it! You realized the real meaning of ‘shop til you drop’ as I think I could have easily fainted from dehydration and sun stroke! The skies looked a bit dark, but I kind of ignored them because I had been in India for 3 weeks now during monsoon season and it had only rained once so far!
We continued on to another market via auto rickshaw when we heard some thunder in the distance. Finally, it started to sprinkle – some relief to the humidity at last! It was a pleasant rain…just enough that you needed an umbrella – but not close to a monsoon storm! We were inside one of the shops for about 30 minutes trying things on – and when we exited the shop – we were met face to face with a honest to God downpour – the skies had opened upon us. It was as if someone from above had buckets of water they were pouring out. I got my raincoat out of my backpack – happy to finally be able to use it since I drug it along to India. We kind of stood there wondering what to do…realizing that any hope of us waiting there under the awning until it let up was about as probable as Brad Pitt pulling up in an auto rickshaw and offering to take us home. Under the assumption that “we won’t melt” – we decided to head out into the pouring rain in search of a taxi. All of you New Yorkers know how fun it is to try to get a taxi in the rain…well, the same principle applies here. We stood out there for quite some time until finally a taxi took pity on us, stopped, and we hopped in. Granted, we were only 3 km from home…but it was pouring, there was no way that we could really walk – and we had no where to go for cover. The taxi driver wiped off the inside of his fogged up window and took off peering out of his little 7 inch by 7 inch fog-free hole.
Photo: Kate reacting to seeing the flooded street!
We took off into the main street – all we had to do was go past two stoplights and we would be at our apartments. However – the traffic was horrendous! I thought that it was due to the fact that people slowed down in the rain or something – but as we watched the events unfold outside our foggy window – we realized that the traffic wasn’t moving because the whole road was flooded. There were cars and buses stuck everywhere! People were pushing their motorbikes through deep water, rickshaws were rapidly trying to get to higher ground – and the water was gushing out of the manholes. The good news is that our taxi driver did not drive into the flooded area – we were able to get stopped before we went too far. We backed up and found a little turn off that took us to higher ground. We tried two more side streets where we would get halfway down them and then hit a lake with stranded cars. Finally – he took us as far as he could and said – that’s all the further I can make it – you will have to get out and walk. It was still pouring outside – but we bundled up and got out with the hopes that we would be able to make it home on foot…albeit wet.
Everywhere we turned the streets and sidewalks were flooded and vehicles were stranded. The water was rushing down the streets – so we did what anyone else would do in the situation – took off our shoes, rolled up our pants, and started wading through the streets towards home! There were tons of locals out doing the same thing – so we were in good company – and it was actually a really fun bonding time. They were laughing at us, and us at them. Young men were helping old ladies. Daughters were helping mothers. We even saw this lovely young woman dressed in a beautiful white dress hike here dress up and wade into the dirty water. Yes – the water was a bit scary. I honestly have no idea what was in it. I can only imagine what was coming out of the flooded manholes! Think to all of those recent stories in the news about flooding in India and all of the disease…well – here we were walking in it.
It took us about 30 minutes to walk home through the downpour. After we were able to shower and dry off – we remarked at how much fun it was to be out in the chaos of the rain storm. It was a memorable shopping adventure – a very local adventure! This experience seemed out of the ordinary to us, but to the people that live here – it was completely normal. Flooding streets, wading around in dirty water, pushing cars out of the flooded areas – it’s just another day for them. There wasn’t even a mention of it in the paper the next day. That night we did what any good New Yorker would do when the weather sucks outside…we ordered food for delivery!