Upon arrival in Delhi I managed to learn my first lesson at the cost of 70 US dollars and a blow to the heart. The time was 1:50 am local, and I was to be greeted at the airport by my shuttle driver who would take me to my 'budget' hotel. To my dismay, however, there was no one holding my name sign. I grew concerned as I looked and asked about, but eventually turned to the concierge service desk. He kindly called my hotel, but when there was no answer for the second time, he suggested I book another. I asked him if I may cancel it if when I walk out of the airport I find my Indian shuttle friend, to which he replied, "it is not possible to cancel it, sir." I took his words solemnly as I paid for his pricy substitute. And just as Shiva himself could not have written it better, I exited the airport into the hot summer night to see my friend, the shuttle boy, standing with my name. As I glanced up from his battered paper banner, we made eye contact. I could see the tiredness in his eyes and the hopes that his trip was not in vein, as it was late and he looked desperate. I knew any acknowledgment of my situation would cause more trouble for myself, as the guard at the door, holding an ak47, said I was unable to re-enter the airport once I had exited. I broke the eye contact as I walked past him, both of us losing in this situation. I shall expect a lightly concerned, yet angered email when I find some wifi in this place.
My spirits were lifted only by the adventure of my first Indian taxi ride. It would cost me 400 RS ~ 8 US dollars, and can only be described in equivalence to the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. The 50-year-old London cab was driven by a man not much older than me. Although his name was bounced back and forth between us with fervor, I could still not pronounce it nor remember it one day's after. The ride began as a rebellion against the lane divider. It was a constant blending of boundaries, noncommittal, except to pass an opponent or swerve through a police barricade. I began to talk to my new taxi friend, but when I noticed my language impaired his acute driving skills I gladly held my tongue.
We swerved through trucks, honking in their direction for fair warning of our pending pass. The windows were open, (I think permanently), and as I looked out, I was bombarded with a brigade of cultural clichés. We swerved through packs of dogs, and whizzed past pedestrians & rickshaw drivers sleeping in their carts. A heard of cattle wondered down the sidewalk on my right, and a car accident was being crudely investigated on my left. A couple turns, swerves, and questions to bearded men later- I finally arrived at my hotel. Eager to continue my journey, I reached down to unbuckle my belt and realized there was no such apparatus.
An Indo Inquisition is a thirteen-week train expedition across India. The journey will document the influences of international modernism and British occupation, as well as compare the effects of wealth accumulation, culture, religion, and poverty with economic growth and their effect on the built environment.