Paharganj, New Delhi.
Overwhelmed. My senses are not able to keep up yet. Noises, rickshaws, beggars, flies, cows, construction materials, mud, horns, dirt, children, food, dogs, dodgy creatures. From all directions. The heat is scorching. Chaos. I taste spices, food, people, urine, rats. Feel my own sweat. A woman clings on to me and starts begging. Behind me a rickshaw driver tries to offer me a ride. Children around me, throwing stones. One hits my foot. I don’t know how or where to walk. Whether I feel the urge to laugh or to cry. Welcome to India!
I look down from the rooftop of my hotel at the square underneath, and feel like I have been swallowed by my new surroundings. I can’t stop looking. Am fascinated and try my best to come up with a pattern to make sense of what I see; to incorporate it into my existing world. I fail consistently and that makes me try harder.
Left under me appears to be a community for Muslim boys. I see about 20 young boys, mostly dressed in white. Some of them are baking bread, others are doing laundry. A couple of teachers are walking around. Their complex is sheltered from the streets. At the second floor a little girl is looking down, all covered up, behind bars. I wonder if she is the daughter of the principal and the only woman in the whole complex. When would she be send out to another home?
On one of the rooftops above me I see a man standing with a big wound on his head. The blood comes out of the bandage around it. It looks serious. I wonder what has happened to him.
Another rooftop. Two children are playing with kites. The lucky ones.
Back to the square. People. Mostly men. Some are carrying big baskets of foods, others are transporting construction materials. Greasy potato snacks. Some inelegant street dogs stick their noses in dirty corners. The smell of Indian food. Evening falls in.
Out on the streets again. Rush hour. One, two cows next to me. Mud on the street. Lots of hassle and hurry. I need water. No seal? No worry Miss, it is safe to drink…I make my way into a restaurant. Burned naan with greasy lentils and rice. My stomach starts warning me straight after.
Night. The bathroom is flooded after two showers. Water comes back out of the drain and flows into the room. I close my eyes and try to pretend it never happened.