Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Delhi - Daily Life

“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” - Miriam Beard

Today was the first time I felt the natural path from home to school, school to home. For the last few weeks, I've hesitated on rickshaw prices (or been ripped off), reconsidered my exit route off the metro line (or ended up on the opposite side of the street), and carefully chosen the food I've eaten from the streets. Now I walk out to our main street, ask for a ride, get a good price immediately, exit the correct route, and eat all the most delicious food available for less than a dollar a meal.

Daily life has become more of a smooth routine.

907 Mukherjee Nagar

Living on the third floor has been amazing. I can't imagine living in a better location. Our balcony overlooks a small park. I'll walk out to find all the surrounding homes drying their clothes in the dry Delhi winter wind, and Dhobi's are stationed at each corner of the park waiting to wash, dry, and iron any amount of clothing (20 pieces of clothing costs a little over $2) if hand washing is an inconvenience. Sometimes, I'll wake up to the wallahs making their way about the surrounding streets selling every desirable imaginable at your door step. And all the while, dogs designate their street space by bickering (and sometimes all out brawling). One may think that all this commotion would stir me awake every morning. Compared to the wild and crazy city streets, this place is a quiet, peaceful safe-haven from the chaos of the inner city. How could get any better when we have an entire rooftop balcony to ourselves? Righteous...

Adam enjoying breakfast on the balcony. Our park can be seen below.

Our kitchen

Since there are groceries available at my doorstep, a walking distance away, or a metro ride, it is very easy for me to purchase and cook any type of food I please. The kitchen is equipped with a nice gas stove, and for seven peoples' worth of kitchenware (plates, utensils, cups, pots, pans, dishrags, and dish soap), it cost us less than $50. We have 20L of water delivered to our house whenever we please for $1.75 (Indian rupees (Rs) = 80), and door-to-door trash service for Rs 80 a month.

Bathing is a big change from the States, but I've found myself adapting very comfortably to the differences. We all take bucket showers, which is pictured below. I fill up our big bucket with hot water, and the smaller pitcher is used to pour water as if it were a spout. The squeegee on the left is used to push all the water down the drain once I'm done, that way someone doesn't walk into a slippery marble bathroom or track soiled trails of dirt all over the house. In my experience and opinion, it's simple, easy to maintain, and very efficient. I know exactly how much water I'm using, which is no more than 5 gallons a shower.

Then there's the toilet, the biggest change of them all. It's all about squatting in India! It might seem primitive, but believe it or not, its very easy to use. I won't go into too many details, but I'll say two things:

1.) I am still and will always use toilet paper.
2.) I never shake with my left hand in India.

Pop a squat!
You get my point, I hope...


Bicycle Rickshaw

Photographer - Pius Lee

I don't use this mode of transport too often unless there's no other form of transport around. These guys work the hardest for their money, and according to Nick, its a daily income of Rs 200 (a little over $5) on a good day. I know their trying to make their living, but its hard when I have to get across the city and know that the bike ride will take half the day.

Auto Rickshaw

Where tourist and local meets the cheapest, speedy transport imaginable. There are thousands of these guys all over the city, trying to make a living by driving a 3 speed three-wheel mini-mobile. How many people do you think can fit in one of these? If you saw the number I've seen (up to 7), you'd be laughing at the ridiculousness of it too. We've only fit 6 before (5 in the back and 1 up front) but there was a seat on the other side of the driver for Adam, who wasn't with us that evening.

The most bad ass auto rickshaw on our street. Check the single-sided spinner!

On my main street, I can hop into a moving auto rickshaw full of people that acts as a group transport line during the evening. It only costs me Rs 5 ($0.11). Awesome.


 Photographer - Planemad
These free rides I have not tried yet, but all I know from observation is that they never, ever completely stop. You have to time it right so that you can run out into the street, grab the railing (or a helping hand), and pull into the bus where there could easily be people packed to the brim. I've even seen guys hanging out of the doors just desperately trying to get a ride. I think I'll hold off on this experience for a while and use the auto rickshaw... 


This is one of the nicest metro lines I have ever used. Smooth, clean, and organized, it is an anomaly to the chaos of the city streets. I can rely on this form of transport to get anywhere in the city and to many suburbs. It even has a car for ladies only (even though there is no door, wall or designation from the car immediately adjacent to it, and creepy men trickle in every once in a while. So are Indian rulings...). At the same time, it is the most ridiculous metro line I have ever experienced. At some stops, massive swarms of Indians push and shove their way in and out of the train. The absurdity of this means that if you really want to get off of the train, or really want to get on it, you are consistently battling against many others to shove your way out or in. This, however, is only true at big junctions and some other significantly large metro stops. There is no "excuse me," or "I need to get off this train, move." But believe it or not, I love it. It's like being back in the good ol' days of Lacrosse. A massive swarm of people are in my way, they are going to be forced out of the way if I have already politely asked for them to move. This has led me to take out the shoulder charges again to blast my way through hundreds of Indians to wherever I need to go. Bodacious.

My Bedroom (also the Living Room)

It's a cozy place with all the things I'll need to stay clean, warm, and well rested. Not much to say about it, and no complaints.


I haven't accustomed myself to the dhobi yet, so I do my own laundry. I fill the big bucket with cold water and some detergent. I hand scrub some of the dirtiness off of everything. You can't expect to have super clean clothes here because there's enough particulates in the air to get them dirty again anyways so its better just to make them smell good. Rinse cycle involves pouring out the soap water and filling the bucket with cold water to get rid of the soap. The squeegee is used to push all the water to the drain (black hole in the picture) each time I pour it from the bucket. Again, simple, efficient, and easy to manage. The cooking pot here has no significance.

I feel very fortunate to have such a great place to live. And to top it all off, our landlord is timely, organized, and polite. I'm looking forward to living in Mukherjee Nagar for the rest of my time in Delhi.