After 3 years in New Delhi, India, it's time to reflect on my time here and look back at the expectations I wrote in my first Delhi-cate News post to see how many of them came true.
|David & Erica enjoying Diwali celebrations|
Expectation #1: I will experience some ill effects from Delhi's horrendous air pollution, but hopefully won't get too sick.
Reality: I'll admit that the pollution was one of my top concerns before arriving. I had never lived anywhere known for bad pollution and had no idea what to expect. Also, air pollution is one of those things that affects individuals differently. Luckily, my expectation was spot on! On the worst days, I could see the pollution as "fog" in the air, with visibility reduced to less than 50 meters/yards. Sometimes it would even smell like smoke. Physically, I never got more sick than a mild sore throat or a dry cough. I learned to monitor the pollution levels during the "bad" months of October-January and adjust my outdoor exercise plans or activities if pollution was high. Because in my first year, I didn't pay enough attention to the pollution levels, and definitely noticed a decrease in my cardiovascular endurance and increase in coughing when I spent time outside on bad pollution days.
Expectation #2: My stomach of steel will allow me to enjoy lots of wonderful Indian food while my spice tolerance increases and I avoid severe cases of Delhi Belly.
Reality: Another accurate expectation! As reported in my recent post about Indian food, I sampled lots of new food and identified some new favorites. While a native Indian will never believe that a foreigner has adequate spice tolerance, I never shied away from spicy food and managed most of it without too many tears or coughing fits. I was also spared from Delhi Belly, even after eating lots of salads and occasional street food. Sure, I had occasional queasy-stomach days where I limited my intake to water and plain rice, but I never had to stay home or take medicine to ease my stomach.
|Chilies, chutneys & pickles at the Leela Hotel Gurgaon buffet|
Expectation #3: I will visit the Taj Mahal at least 4 times.
Reality: FALSE! I am probably one of the few Delhi expats who got away with once and done at the Taj! Don't get me wrong. The Taj is beautiful, I enjoyed my visit immensely, and am grateful I had the opportunity to see one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. But it's a 3-hour drive from Delhi, the best time to see it is in the early morning, and a leisurely visit only lasts 2 hours. So, the logistics of the trip make it unappealing to repeat, so once in 3 years was sufficient for me!
|Erica at the Taj with Tariq, April, and Jodi|
Expectation #4: Adjusting to the massive amounts of people in Delhi will require some time.
Reality: The multitude of people in Delhi is a continual adjustment for me. It's almost impossible to go anywhere outside of my house or my office and experience the tranquility of solitude. Early morning is the exception, since Delhi doesn't really wake up until 9-10 am. Otherwise Delhi is a constant hive of people and activity. As long as I reminded myself of that regularly, and practiced patience in crowded, chaotic situations, I managed and sometimes even enjoyed the masses.
|Ready, Set, Go ... everyone, all at once, from all directions!|
Expectation #5: I will buy at least 3 saris.
Reality: Exactly correct! I am now the owner of 3 saris. Every purchase was for a performance with the Capital City Minstrels choir. The first time I ever wore a sari, an Indian woman came up to me and said "You carry the sari so well." I thanked her but had no idea what she meant. Someone kindly enlightened me later that means that I wore and walked in the sari easily, without looking like I was about to trip over the cloth or my own feet. No small feat! I will admit, though, that I have not emerged as a lover of sari-wearing. I find them bulky and awkward, even though I managed to wear them gracefully.
|Jasmita and Erica carrying our saris in style!|
Expectation #6: Delhi has an actual winter season, so I will still make use of my winter clothes.
Reality: Winter in Delhi meant temperatures as low as 10C/50F, which is not warm, but is considered springtime in my native Pennsylvania. It was nice to have those few months to wear jeans, boots, and a spring jacket. But my winter clothes really came in handy when I visited Leh in northern India. I don't remember the numeric temperatures. All I know is that it was COLD! I wore long-johns, wool sweaters, and a heavy winter coat throughout my visit. My only failing was that I should have brought my ski gloves to keep my fingers warm.
|Enjoying some snow flurries in Leh|
Expectation #7: While I expect to feel compassion in the face of India's poverty, I don't expect to feel overwhelmed or despondent.
Reality: Despite India's rise on the world economy, many Indians still live in poverty. It's not uncommon to see beggars, often children, at road intersections approaching car windows for handouts. It is a sad reality of life in Delhi. It is uplifting to hear of the many organizations and individuals doing what they can to offer assistance and solace. In the Sikh religion, their temples have a community kitchen where anyone can volunteer to work and anyone can come eat for free. It is an amazing display of daily kindness, service, hospitality, and community.
|Community kitchen at Delhi's Gurudwara Bangla Sahib|
Expectation #8: There are so many activities in Delhi, I couldn't possibly get bored!
Reality: My personal calendar has never been as wonderfully packed as it's been here in Delhi. I continued some of my existing activities - choir, Ultimate frisbee, regular exercise. I also added some new ones - darts, obstacle course races, and Bollywood dancing. On top of that, I traveled around India, attended an amazing variety of social events, and checked out many of Delhi's prime bars, clubs, and restaurants. By my side through most of this were my circle of close friends, my Delhi family. On top of busy work demands, we somehow made time for all of the above as well as celebrating and grieving through birthdays, death, birth, divorce, and life's ups and downs.
|La Familia: Troy, Yanira, Karime, David, Maribel, Erica, Dorian|
MIA: Will and Abe
Expectation #9: While I'm excited to visit Hindu temples, after 3 years, I will have had my fill of them.
Reality: I've certainly seen enough Hindu temples to satisfy my curiosity. My absolute favorite was Swaminarayan Akshardham. This place is the Disneyland of Hindu temples. There's a huge temple with intricate carvings throughout. There's a movie about the namesake guru. There's a series of animatronic displays on Hindu culture. There's a boat ride through Indian history. And the finale is a sunset sound-light-water show about the struggle of good vs. evil. You can experience it all in a 3-hour visit 45 minutes from New Delhi!
|Souvenir photo from my visit to Swaminarayan Akshardham|
Expectation #10: I hope to develop friendships outside the expat community.
Reality: My time in Delhi has been greatly enriched by the many friends I made among diplomats, expats, and Indians - at work, at choir, playing sports, over drinks, or through other friends. My experience here has really been about the personal connections I've made in Delhi - some fleeting, some likely to fade once I leave, and others hopefully to persevere into the next phase of my life. Thank you Delhi and Delhiites (native, transplants, and temporary) for an unforgettable adventure!
|International Women's Day cocktails|