Now that Chuck and I are settling into the new normal of ‘Safer at Home,’ and getting into a routine of working around each other, meal planning and checking in on family and friends, we are getting back to sharing more about our time in India.
Chuck and I arrived in Delhi at about 1 o’clock in the early hours of Friday morning. By 4 pm that afternoon, we, along with our friends Tim and Brandon, were in an Uber heading across Delhi. In driving rain and rush hour traffic, we made our way an hour across Delhi to Old Delhi and the Chandni Chowk neighborhood for our Delhi Food Walks Old Delhi Night Food Walk.
Chandni Chowk by Night
Chandni Chowk anytime is loud, hectic, crowded, dirty, and a little overwhelming. At night, in the pouring rain, you can add muddy and wet to that list. But, we LOVED our food tour!
Every alley looks the same; they twist and turn and end and are blocked off by traffic. With a little education, you know where you are based on the food. The Muslim sector is filled with the smell of lamb and roasting meat, while the Hindu sector is vendor after vendor of vegetarian delights.
Beyond that, wedding clothes, silver jewelry, and paper products are the only indication of what neighborhood and street you are on.
Being on a food tour gave us a flyby of the various neighborhoods. We walked very little, and when we did, we dodged puddles, scooters, cows, and dogs to get to the next food stand.
Daytime is Different
Daytime in Chandni Chowk is totally different because the volume is turned way up. The stores spill out into the alley, the vendors seem to multiply, and cars have added to the swarm of rickshaws, scooters, and carts.
People are doing business at a more frantic pace than nighttime. Deliveries of wholesale goods are happening with products being transported on people’s heads, wooden carts are pulled by day workers and piled into bicycle rickshaws. If you can stack a delivery on it, it’s used to transport products across old Delhi.
Chuck and I jumped into a rickshaw and were concerned by the slender, man who climbed onboard. Truthfully, he jumped off a few times as we maneuvered the alleyways, but then we realized that so did all of the other drivers.
It’s the only way to navigate the streets and the volume of rickshaws packed on top of each other.
Old Delhi Traffic Jam
At one point in our Chandni Chowk rickshaw excursion, we all converged into a major intersection. It was mid-day, and business was booming and added into the mix were a half dozen cars, and a bus or two.
We had learned early on that the lines on the road were merely decorative, and the one-way streets are not one-way streets. If there was an opening the flow of traffic spread to fill the space.
So, the three cars trying to go the correct direction were engulfed by hundreds of rickshaws and scooters heading the opposite direction.
Bottleneck and gridlock don’t begin to explain the situation. For most of the trip, we saw traffic, regardless of how hectic seems to flow. This was the exception.
A handful of local police officers emerged from a nearby station and physically moved rickshaws from the edges of the traffic jam back into side streets. They made drivers move over to the right side of the road and directed cars through spaces I never thought they would fit through.
At one point our tour manager signaled to all of us to get out of the rickshaws. We all lined up and followed him up the road and around the corner to our tour bus.
But this is India.