Culture shock, or shocking culture?

So many people had warned us about the culture shock we should expect from India that we felt we were prepared. However, I don’t think you can ever be prepared for Delhi and today we found ourselves slap bang in the middle of the ‘real’ Delhi. We emerged from our hotel this morning and weren’t sure if we had inadvertantly walked into a war zone or the aftermath of an earthquake. The streets were filled with rubble and rubbish, many buildings were just shells and the people looked just as dazed and confused as we felt. On top of all that a mist, or smog, hung over the city which made us wonder if all this was a dream.
After wandering around aimlessly for a bit, wondering where on earth we were, we caught an autorickshaw to what we hoped would be ‘civilisation’. We found the Indian equivalent of Starbucks and planned our next move over coffee.
That move involved a travel agent, a substantial amount of money and a promise that the next ten days were accounted for! With just half a day to explore Delhi, we began with the surreal experience of the metro, think London underground but with security scanners, frisk searches and then queues for the push into sardine formation on the train.
Alighting from the train we had no clues as in which way to go in search of the red fort (I know we’re freshies but I swear there is no order, rhyme or reason to this city!) so we just followed the crowds and hoped for the best. Luckily our plan worked, the red fort was in sight (it was just as well that the red fort was unmissable – being big and red and all).
I’ve read somewhere that India is an assault on the senses and the short walk to the fort had them all (I will spare you the graphic and mind scarring details)
The red fort itself was a bit of a dreach and dismal affair, not helped by the rain, our jet lag and the fact that we didn’t understand what we were looking at. It was also very unnerving to be so openly stared at and followed around, we were even asked several times if we would mind having our photos taken.
It wasn’t long before we had had enough and so returned to the metro to make our way back to the hotel for a bit of a snooze. By the time we exited the underground station the monsoon rain had begun in earnest. We seemed to spend hours wading around in dirty puddles and streams up and down various back street alleys, in serious danger of losing our rag (especially when a ‘helpful’ local felt the need to point out to us that it was the rainy season!) before we finally found our hotel. A beer, a curry and some serious sleep and we will be ready to brave Delhi again in the morning.