I had a few more days left in Delhi before heading back south. “Delhi Belly” illness was still in raging effect so I kept a pretty slow pace and kept it to one or two tourist sites a day along with a good amount of rest.
Delhi slum tour:
You may notice that there’s a lot of Muslim presence around. Indeed, much of the history of India has involved needing to nonviolently mix highly disparate cultures, including Muslim, British, and Chinese, among others. An entire religion (Sikhism) was even born from trying to reconcile the differences between Islam and Hinduism. Even within India, the variety of people and cultures is staggering. To use language as an example, each state has its own language, and some areas such as Chennai don’t have predominant use of either English or Hindi.
Imagine the equivalent in the US. Suppose we had English as a loose common thread, but there were also languages for Californian, Texan, Kansan, etc. Obviously there would be much greater difficulty in interstate commerce, as well as exacerbating existing political divisions. Anant describes it as being more like the European Union than the US in that it operates more as a loose cooperative of separate nations. Indeed, some within India have called for a separation of the different states into different countries.
Architecturally, this diversity means that you can see a mix of elements from different areas of the world combined in unique ways. One particularly famous example of that is…
Yup, a trip down to Agra to see the Taj Mahal was definitely in order. Originally I’d planned to do the “Golden Triangle” of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur, but being slowed by illness I thought it wiser to stick to one daytrip.
As a final shining example of Indian bureaucracy, I originally tried to book the government tour going down from Delhi. It was dirt cheap and seemed to be pretty convenient. Then you actually try to book and find that they have steadfast requirements on:
-An Indian contact number (my phone is American?)
-Address verification on the credit card required a valid zip code… only it had to be in Indian zip code format. Whereupon you take a stab in the dark and hope that Mastercard understands what 060613 is supposed to mean.
-A photocopy of the credit card you used to make the purchase, because making you show the card itself would be too simple
-A photocopy of your passport
-A photocopy of your visa
-A printout of your receipt
-A phone call confirmation 24 hours in advance of the trip departing.
You should probably know that stupid rules really, and I mean really, piss me off. I ended up declaring it a lost cause and booking a separate trip with a personal driver. 4x the cost, but a small price to pay for my sanity.
Anyhow, end of rant and back to pretty pictures.
After 8 days of symptoms despite the best efforts of American medicine, I decided to give in and hit the hospital. For some reason, they decided on this aspect of the economy to make impossibly easy. I showed up looking confused where to go so I got waived into another room where… a doctor showed up and started giving treatments on the spot. No paperwork, no insurance info, just straight to business. They ended up hooking me up to an IV for some fluids and meds for a couple hours, and then discharging me at the whopping cost of $22. And what do you know, no symptoms to speak of after that day.
After leaving the hospital, I was rather in need of some comfort food upon discharge, so I hit the biggest American chain around. Never realized that a TGI Friday’s chicken sandwich could be so thoroughly delicious in the right circumstances. Refreshing.
It was interesting reflecting at the end of that day. On the one hand, it felt like a thoroughly lazy waste of a day. I had slept in until mid-afternoon, managed to do one thing all day, and hadn’t left the neighborhood. On the one hand, an absolute lost cause, and my host family continued to chastise me for not getting to enough of the tourist attractions (“enough” by their standards apparently being a picture in front of every building in Delhi). On the other hand, how often do you try out another country’s health care system? Serious cultural experience there.
Ah, the joys of travel.