7 initial impressions and observations of India

  1. There are men everywhere! I notice this because in many places where we live in southern Mexico it’s hard to find a lot of men. Many villages have fully 50%-70% of the working age men living outside of the village somewhere working. Here, though, on the streets and in the Old Delhi market area, we see many more men than women.
  2. Everywhere we’ve been in Delhi so far has a very distinct smell. I don’t know yet exactly what it is. We haven’t been to any slums, which are supposed to have their own (unpleasant) distinct smell. This smell is different–something like flowers or perfume or spices.
  3. Delhi is not quite as poor as I expected. This surprised me a bit because I visited Nepal about 10 years ago. I remember Kathmandu as a fair bit poorer than the parts of Delhi I have seen appear to be. The city is a little cleaner and the larger streets are in better condition and not quite as cramped as I expected. Don’t get me wrong, the streets and market areas are quite crowded, and there are definitely dirty parts, but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be based on what I’ve heard from others.
  4. English is not quite as prevalent as I expected. Signs in English are everywhere, and a lot of people do speak a decent bit of English, but we have run into plenty of people who don’t speak any English. My expectations of English speakers also came from my visit to Nepal. There, I found that a great number of people (at least in the more touristy areas) spoke English quite well. Here, English speaking doesn’t seem to be as widespread. The amount of English influence that does exist is owed in large part to the fact that India was a British colony until 1947.
  5. I’m surprised at how much Delhi reminds me of Mexico. I’ll probably write more about this later.
  6. I’m surprised at how many Sikhs we see. Sikhism is a religion that is very prominent on the northwestern border of India, right by Pakistan. I don’t know much about it, but I understand that it’s interesting because it’s similar to Hinduism, except monotheistic. Sikh men are easy to spot because of the distinct style of turban they wear. Overall, they are a small minority in India, but we have been seeing a lot of them here in Delhi.
  7. Modesty is important in Indian cultures. (I say cultures–plural–because India is a melting pot of them, rather than being one homogenous culture.) The range of clothing choices is pretty narrow, and all are quite modest. Women’s clothing that I saw ranged from Muslims with only their eyes showing at one extreme to a handful of women in Western-style blouses and jeans at the other, and I didn’t see a single woman dressed what I would consider immodestly. Although ads of scantily-clad Western women are not difficult to find, there don’t seem to be as prevalent as in the United States or Mexico.

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