There are about 20 million people crowded into this city, and the traffic is simply overwhelming. Is Delhi what the megacities of the future will look like? It is the world’s most polluted city. There is trash in heaps along the sides of the roads. After the rains, people can breathe but I usually visit in the winter, when the black air covers my lungs and I start coughing after a few hours. The new metro system is one of the biggest in the world, but it is already overcrowded, with too few trains, and people pushing each other in all directions. There are simply too many cars, and people don’t follow traffic rules: chaos reigns. Among the cars are buses filled to capacity, with school buses stopping in the middle of the roads to drop off children, blocking traffic. The cows wander freely, and the incessant beeping of horns numbs the eardrums.
India has a huge number of young people who have immense potential to make change, but with corruption and the high costs of living, they appear to be sinking into a sea of cars, losing hours of their lives just getting to work, buying some food and picking up the kids. Then there is the heat and humidity…
I have a somewhat unusual perspective on this city, since I have been coming to Delhi approximately every couple years throughout my whole life. Every time I visit, it seems more choatic. I remember when I was a kid, the Qutub Minar was far away, along dusty roads. Now it is considered very central in New Delhi. The Qutub Minar is an impressively tall old tower from the 12th century. It is now a nice park, but lacks planning for parking or the large numbers of visitors. That is a central theme of Delhi; a lack of planning: planning to control the population, planning to accommodate the traffic, planning to take care of the garbage and electricity and water. It is just a hard place to live. Without major efforts by Western cities in city planning, the path to “Delhiness” is inevitable.
But on the other hand, Delhi is a magical place, where all of humanity somehow coexists with amazingly few problems. There is never any fear of gun attacks, because it is not possible to get guns. Even among millions of people in the crowds, there is no sense of danger. Despite the traffic chaos, there is relatively little road rage. People seem to accept the fate of this place, as if it was a part of the Hindu plan for existence.
Everyone I know is gracious and helpful. People in stores are eager to sell what they have and can be pushy, but they know it is a game, and there is also a lot of smiling and friendly gestures. I have been visiting my relatives. My cousin’s wife has a new food catering service in the Faridabad area, serving delicious meals to her neighborhood. Her business is called Granny’s Kitchen. Here is the recipe for her mint chutney, which I find irresistible.
2 bunches of mint
1 bunch of coriander (cilantro)
5 green chilies (this is a spicy hot chutney)
½ inch ginger
½ teaspoon mango powder
black salt or regular salt to taste
Grind in a food processor until a thick paste.
Some birds move about in the sparse trees, and at night, the stray dogs in the neighborhood have barking frenzies. The sounds of night have remained the same throughout the years. There is a night watchman who beats his stick on the ground making a thump thump sound followed by a whistle. In the early morning, the vegetable vendors pull their carts through the streets shouting their presence with their nasal voices, as ice cream trucks used to do with bells long time ago in the USA.
Delhi will continue to grow but now that its residents travel throughout the world, they recognize that the situation can improve. The people of India will definitely shape the future. Good luck Delhi!