OnPoint by Keith Ng


D1: Delhi vs Belly

Delhi isn't really what I'd expected. For the capital of a supposed up-and-coming IT-superpower, it was pretty strange that it didn't even have a functional ATM at the airport (there was, however, one broken one). My GPRS phone worked the moment I turned it on, and I was downloading emails by the time we were driving through the slums that surrounded the airport.

There was the usual hoo-har. I'd booked a hotel close to the airport, which, as it turns out, meant "far from civilisation". My 12-year-old-looking taxi driver drove me down around a dozen dark, rat-infested, unpaved back alleys looking for my hotel. The only light not from us was from some guy lighting a fire in a barrel and his invisible companion who was a very good listener. As far as first impressions go, it wasn't so flash.

We arrived an hour later to be told that the room I booked wasn't booked, and that they had no room for me. More taxi-ing about. Deciding against more 3am back alley sheenagans, I picked a youth hostel close to the diplomatic enclave. Big wide roads, big fat signs, heavily armed soldiers giving him directions, and the new driver still got lost. I ended up having to give driving directions to him via my half-page Lonely Planet map - how the hell did people travel before it?

Got to bed around 5am. So, the usual hoo-har.

I'd expected Delhi to be hot, crowded and wired up - it's not. It was 10 degrees last night, I didn't even have to elbow anyone, and the only sign of the tech revolution is the ubiquitous cellphone - everything else is still pretty... loose.

I guess it's one of those things: Just because everybody uses the internet, has a cellphone and watches cable, it doesn't necessarily mean they're living like us.

Then there's the anarchic traffic system. Nothing like a bit of "OH FUCK I'M GOING TO DIE" in a gas-powered tuk-tuk to start the day. Of course, all this Mad-Maxary was nothing to the drivers; one was peacefully humming as he drove on the wrong side of the road, swerved to avoid people, drove at speed inches between two buses, etc.; another was eating shelled peanuts while driving - open vehicles are handy like that.

Took me two hours to get a cellphone - you need photo ID, photo, photocopy of photo ID, *then* you fill out three forms. But now I am connected to modern India.

The NZ Deputy High Commissioner Heather Ward was kind enough to host a lunch for me and a few Indian journalists, followed by a few meetings. It was a great introduction to India - talking about the trade tarrifs, the rural problems, politics, religion and everything else. It's a lot to take in for the first day.

I'll be heading down to Chennai next week, and will be in India for a while. Will be heading out to Bangalore on the 18th to see Jim Sutton, live. That'll be rockin'.

Would be great to get in touch with any readers in the neighbourhood - here in Delhi, in Chennai (where I'll be spending a lot of time), or even in Banglore, Hyderbad or Mumbai (I'll be moving around a bit).

Will write more (and hopefully better) when I'm more cogent.

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