Reporting on Doors of Perception 2/3: Juice as in transport

It’s so easy to forget that your own behaviors are the result of your surroundings. India was a vivid reminder of that. Delhi is the home of 13 million people, or 9 000 people per square kilometer. That means nothing until you have to think about how those people will start going places and then it dawns on you that as a foreigner in this vivid city, you know nothing about traffic, that you know nothing of the subtle art of being able to fit 8 cars on a 3 lane highway, and that you’ve had it easy so far.

You see, in Delhi, going around could be an Olympic sport and being a tourist and needing to get around is actually a battlefield. It starts with trying to flag an auto rick-shaw, well enough of them if you happen to be a party of people. Each rick-shaw will only fit 3 people , no more, or you have a deathwish. Then you have to tell him where you want to go and he might just decline if it’s too dodgy, busy or not where he intended to go.
Then you talk price, you have to bargain your way through India, even if it means a fraction of a fraction of what you would have thought to be cheap in London, Paris or New York… 100 rupees to go across town on what is basically a motorbike dressed up for Halloween, that’s 1 pound in my mind and it’s just mind blowing. But you do it, and you’re told by the locals to do it, bargain till the price drops so low you could buy 20 , and you do it because otherwise if you come and buy everything at what they’d like you to pay, then the prices go up for everyone, and the locals will have to pay more, and considering how much they earn you don’t want that to happen to them.

So you get on auto the rick shaw, the car, the bike rick-shaw, trying not to fall out of the vehicle , holding on to the frame for dear life, with a driver who will completely ignore where you’re trying to go or where you point on the map, and will take your somewhere else where his friend works, where he’ll argue and just stand there saying “this is better” on the off chance you’ll buy something from his friend/family out of frustration, so you fight it and you fight him and you argue and you get angry and then stoic, he might get back in the car and start over again.

And then of course there’s the honking, that in Delhi, is an indication of presence. Every auto rickshaw or bus is hand painted at the back with “horn please”, so make sure they know you’re there. I can’t imagine the sixth sense of presence you develop as a driver there. After 8 days in Delhi, I started to cancel the honking out slightly, it became part of the soundscape of the city. I can imagine that for a local person however, it must be like white noise.

There it is, the sights and sounds of Delhi. In the next report I’ll talk all about the tastes and smells.

Writing 'Creating a Culture of Innovation' (Out in 2020, Apress)