New Delhi's fog, or why haven't you tried couchsurfing yet.
Dawn in New Delhi. The plane arrived with more than two hours of delay. I didn't know the local time, so I couldn't calculate how late I was. It was 6 am. in India; 2:30. I was tired, a bit of jet lag. I still felt confident. “Everything was gonna be alright.”
I could have done like some students from the ashram: spent some hours of layover in New Delhi and take another plane to Indore; then asked for someone to pick me up in the airport and get to the ashram safe and sound. But then... what could I write about today?
The district looked darker than I expected for the capital of the country with the highest population density in the world.
“Airports are usually outside of the city. It is okay if you don't see so many lights.” I thought.
But the truth was that, at that time, whatever I expected was far from what I was heading to.
New Delhi airport is pretty cool. Everyone takes the same photo of the huge mudras above the passport queue. Nice temperature, not so many people, quite European indeed. I had already forgotten that was 6 am. I crossed the check desk, got a beautiful stamp in my visa and remained calmed about the couch-surfer that was going to pick me up. I wasn't realizing how much I was depending on him. Thanks again, Jitinder.
I went to the baggage belt and waited patiently. It is always the same feeling: your luggage is not gonna appear, your luggage is always one of the last ones, your luggage is lost. Always this feeling until your luggage appear, or until you realize that all the people from your flight are gonna and your luggage is actually in Moscow. Anyhow, my travel just had begun, why should I piss off that soon?
Still calm, I gave my data to the airport worker and helped a Spanish couple that was in the same situation.
“Well, it will come soon” I thought. Nothing else to do in the airport. Drink a little bit more of water from that tap that says “Drinkable water” and crossed the door looking for my savior.
I will add a small note encouraging Couchsurfing here. (If you don't know what is Couchsurfing, click here.) Couchsurfing has been my savior. I didn't published my chronicles from my trip to Morocco, but there was one factor that made the trip an unforgettable experience: Couchsurfing. Thanks to Couchsurfing, I have discovered that the people living in developing countries are way nicer and hospitable than those who lived in developed ones. My experience is mostly limited to Morocco and India for the former, and Europe for the latter. In both countries, I have cried from gratitude, I have cried from unfairness, and I have awed at the hospitality and kindness of their people. Couchsurfing opens a whole new world about what traveling means. Being with locals made trips safer, cheaper and purer. I have to admit that most of what I know about India is thanks to what couchsurfers have taught me. I have been in their homes, eaten their food, slept in their beds, wore their clothes, been transported in their motorbikes and cars, and been loved by their hearts. I cannot put my gratitude into words.
In India it is said that “The guest is God” (Atithi Devo Bhava), and I can assure Indians treat you like if you were. Even when knowing that you are not more than a foreigner. In Morocoo, Islam teaches something similar. I witnessed it when I was bathed in a hammam by a friend I had met the day before. Remember the last time you bath someone, or someone bath you.
If you keep on reading, I will reveal another anecdote that makes justice about these lovely culture. A story that should make us realize how wonderful can be a human being grown up in the right context. Or how despicable he can become.
So, please, don't do it for you, but do it for the world: open a Couchsurfing account (clicking here) and use it. As a host or as a guest, but use it as much as possible, and break all your misconceptions about what human being means.
Suddenly, I realized the amount of artificial comfort that the air conditioning was creating. A humid wave of heat hit my face and my body instantly. The airport had been a quite aseptic experience. I was in India. Actually, It was the first time in my life that I was in India, in Asia. And I only only had a small backpack with less than some basic stuff. Thanks to the help of the airport worker, I could have called Jitinder that was getting to his third hour of waiting in the airport. He and his brother had actually saved me. But I didn't know it yet.
We got into the car. The steering wheel was at the right. A gift from the British, I thought. Better to look a cool and experienced travel and don't comment it. Somehow, none in the car strapped ourselves in, but anyone paid the least attention to the detail.
I was starting to freaking out with the streets. Jitinder was telling me that it was 5 a.m. And there weren't people in the street. But I saw them. I saw people sleeping on the streets, sleeping on the rickshaws, pushing carts full of fruits, walking in the highway, driving cars and motorbikes. I kept on recording, making clear that I was a complete tourist.
-Everything is so different. I repeated amazed.
-This is nothing. You will see it today in New Delhi
Half demolished old buildings. Or maybe new ones that were left unfinished. Cows in the roads. Mountains of garbage. Nonexistent sidewalks. Half paved roads. All of it smothered by the bluish dust of a dawn in New Delhi. A dust cloud that wants to become a London fog, but it cannot. New Delhi's fog it's not composed by condensed water, mystery stories, and economist yawns. New Delhi's' fog is made out of dirt, pollution and dry hopes. A dust cloud of 17 million people, one third of the population of Spain. A district of 11 thousand people per square meter, twice the population density of Madrid.
And it is still funny that I was excited, amused and thinking that everything was gonna be okay.