Looking for a taxi at Indira Gandhi International Airport at 1:30am is one of those challenges that you don’t have any choice about. It had to be done. Outside of the airport door, a row of white taxis waited. There was a “Government Taxi Stand” too, but we didn’t even manage to get close before we were accosted.
“You need taxi? “
I’m not sure if most of them spoke any English at all or if they had just memorized that one phrase.
We retreated from the melee and found that indeed Uber did work in New Delhi! Not only was the fare set & cheap, it included a map interface ( and progress both to you for pickup and towards the destination once the ride started) plus it took money directly from my bank so I didn’t have to juggle rupees when I was exhausted from traveling for 30+ hours.
Uber would end up being a lifesaver throughout the trip.
India Tip- Uber/ Taxis
Use Uber when you are in big cities.
- The price is great
- There is no haggling
- You can see where you are going on a map
- There are no anonymous drivers
- People who don’t speak good English can participate in the tourist economy!
- Once you have used Uber a few times, you can understand the value of your rupee more!
The driver didn’t speak much English. I’d been warned that Indians love to chat- particularly about marriage and family -so much so that it can seem invasive to Americans. So, I asked him “Do you have any children?” and he answered clearly with 2/3rds of a sentence in perfect English. Then there was a pause of way too long – like 1 1/2 minutes and he would finish the sentence with pretty much perfect English. It was as if he only had limited processing power and had to reboot his brain before the sentence was over.
People say that riding in cars in India is terrifying. For me, who has spent most of my adult life driving on Colorado roads that have 1 lane in each direction and nearly 4 car widths across, I suspect that would be true. Driving on them would be terrifying. I know I don’t have that level of awareness about the 1 inch space right next to the surface of my car.
But in India, what did I have to lose? It wasn’t MY car and I never felt in imminent danger. It’s so crowded day and night in New Delhi that the drivers only go about 30 mph . The worst that would happen would be a scrape to a couple of vehicles or hitting a pedestrian. If they had been going 50 mph or more, I would have been scared. But with motorcycles, tuk-tuks, bicycles, pedestrians and even horse drawn carriages sharing the road, it was impossible to build up any speed.
It took me a while to realize that in the US, when we honk- it’s like yelling obscenities at someone. In India, it’s like saying “Hey, just so you know, I’m over here”. When you realize that it isn’t fueled by anger, it’s a much better experience.
So we went in the dark -down what appeared row be a frontage road. Actually though, it was not a “road divider” but a central retaining wall. Trucks came at us in the dark, barreling down the center of the road and leaning to our left just as they reached us. A fantastically decorated red wagon pulled by a draft horse wearing tassels passed us in the dark. It was 12:30 at night, but there was traffic.
After a turn, we came to a roadblock / police checkpoint with a yellow gate on wheels that had been pulled out to the middle of the street. The driver quickly asked us “What country are you coming from?” I knew that was in case the police stopped us.
Did the people in India know about the political situation in the United States? Would they have an emotional reaction to our nationality after hearing that we were taking babies from their immigrant parents and quarantining them?
Luckily we never found out. The police were very busy and we breezed right past.
I think I was kind of naive for even wondering these things. After the time that I spent in India, I saw how the British had damaged not only the ancient culture of India, but almost the spirit of the people themselves. They would not be shocked by the actions of the United States, or Israel, or anywhere.
One guy at a hotel tried to talk with us a bit about politics. He said “So, your country is broken too now.” We nodded and smiled, realizing how much we want to believe that the United States is different than the rest of the world. A place that values truth and empathy. A place where people do the right thing.
It was so comforting to feel that we were morally superior to the other cultures in the world. With the state of politics as extreme as it is, that one way mirror has lost it’s veneer. It’s just a painful window looking out into reality a collection of landscapes filled with corruption and kindness in every single country on the globe .