On Monday, October 29th, we had a scavenger hunt in small groups in Old Delhi. Old Delhi was a bit different from what we have gotten used to over our past week living in New Delhi. My group headed there on the very crowded metro with only our scavenger hunt sheet to guide us. Upon emerging from the sea of people in the metro, we needed to get to the nearby Jain temple. We had no idea where it was, however, and so we asked people for directions. They said we would need to take a rickshaw to get there because it was too far to walk. We walked to the street and were immediately hounded by about eight bicycle-rickshaw drivers all offering to drive us. They were all trying to charge way too much, however, but one finally agreed to take us there for 100 rupees total (which was still a ripoff). We climbed up onto the bike seat, two in front and one in back, and headed off. Riding on the back of this bike was a really interesting experience, and one that I will not easily forget. First of all, the traffic was really intense. There was everything on the road at once – cars, bikes, auto-rickshaws, people-rickshaws, children, pedestrians, dogs, mules, ox-pulled carts, buses, trucks – you name it, it was on the road that day. Being on the back of the bike, I could see all of this that we passed by and that passed by us. The second thing I noticed was the stares. People stared at me a lot. I had experienced this before, but being up on the back of the bike was like being up on a stage specifically for people to stare. Many people talked to me as well. I don’t know how much English they really knew, but they would say “hello” and “how are you” to which I would respond. Some girls on another bicycle-rickshaw came up behind and asked me to take their picture and asked my name. One man driving one of the rickshaws followed ours for about fifteen minutes staring at me basically the entire time. He said hello many times and kept making a gesture with his hand and his eye and I have no idea what it meant. People on the street also would grab the edge of the bike seat as it passed them. I saw this happening with other bikes as well so I suppose it is a normal thing to do. Once in very heavy traffic we were in a long line of bikes and they were all literally tire-to-tire. They would simply bump into each other as a means of braking. This meant I had some bikes and people very close to my knees! I learned quickly to keep them in. Even cars at some points were so close to the back of the bike that I could have reached my foot down and tapped their hoods. A thirty minute ride later we arrived at the mosque – not where we wanted to go! Our driver had not understood that we wanted to go to the Jain temple and so he just took us to the most popular place. After this we found another driver who spoke English well and drove us up and down one of the most crowded streets I had ever seen. From the back of the bike I could see many different types of religious places, including a Baptist church and a Gurudwara, tons of stores, places for eating street food, and even security guards with guns presiding over the whole scene from watchtowers. By the end of the day we were able to find most of the things on our scavenger hunt, and observe many other things too. It was a memorable day in Old Delhi.
Posted by group leaders Dana, Justin & Michelle C.