There are some days that I cannot, and I stress, cannot wait to go back home. Today was one of them.
I can’t stand how hot Delhi is. I can just be standing at the metro station for three minutes waiting for my metro and I will sweat. I will wipe my face, neck, and forehead with my cloth and in another minute, will be sweating again. Even if I catch a rickshaw to me metro station (I do this when I’m leaving the house after it starts to get even hotter), I still sweat. The only time I’m not sweating is probably when it’s pouring rain, and I am already soaking wet.
When I arrived in Delhi – and before leaving Hawaii, actually – I was told by everyone who had been to Delhi or who was from India to always use the women’s compartment on the metro because it is safer. It is not. In the two months I have been here, I have only been pushed once by a man, and it wasn’t even a man – it was a punky kid whom I shot a really nasty stink eye for deliberately pushing me when I literally could not move anyway because there were so many people in front of me trying to get into the metro compartment. Other than that kid, I’ve only been pushed by women. There have been times when we clearly are not moving, but some woman will push me anyway, thinking shoving me will somehow get everyone else in front of me to move so she can get wherever she is going. The women’s compartment also drives me crazy because everyone has a large bag and will hit everyone else with it, and I’ve learned from experience that women do not care how full the metro is — if they need to get somewhere and CANNOT wait another to minutes – because they’ll absolutely die if they need to wait for the next metro! – they will squeeze themselves in even at the protest of the other people in the metro. Three weeks ago when I was coming home from around Hauz Khas (it was about 6:30p/7:00p), the metro got so crowded that my arm went numb because it was stretched out and smashed between so many people. This happened at the Yamuna Bank metro station because a group of girls forced their way in even despite people in the metro saying it was full and to wait. They just needed to leave right then and there and the metro, like everyone had said, was too full and we sat there for about five minutes (not exaggerating) because the door wouldn’t close, precisely because the compartment was so full that a girl could not fit and the door kept closing on her. Everyone was telling her to get off but she refused, delaying a metro full of hundreds of people for a time longer than it would have taken another metro to get there. Oh, and last week, a woman grabbed my ponytail to brace herself so she wouldn’t fall. I was standing next to a pole so she could have grabbed that, but instead she yanked on my ponytail. Have you ever had a woman, a grown woman, weighing probably 150lbs, grab your hair to support her body weight so she would not fall down? Then when I looked at her, she looked at me with a look saying, “Well don’t have hair for me to pull, then.”
And then there is the men’s compartments, which generally smell better anyway because the men wear cologne. They do not have large purses that hit me in the face, and they do not shove me when they clearly see that I have stopped moving for a reason. Instead of blatantly cutting in front of me while waiting to board the metro, more often than not, they will ask, “ma’am, are you getting on?” and when I say yes, they stand behind me. Wow – manners! Consideration! They also don’t force themselves into a compartment that clearly cannot accommodate more people, because they are smart and probably considerate and do not want to make the people in the metro more uncomfortable than they already are, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with another stranger. A few days after the woman in the women’s compartment pulled my hair, a man somehow grabbed my neck (again, I was standing next to a pole so I think he was trying to grab that and just missed). This obviously startled me so I looked up and not even five seconds after his hand landed on my neck, the two men standing between us yelled at him and one of them grabbed his arm and yanked it away from me. Shortly after, another group of men boarded the metro and since it was crowded, my face ended up buried in a guy’s shirt and I was trying to move my head away as to not drown in his dress shirt but also so I wouldn’t be rubbing my hair (again in a ponytail, but my hair is short so it’s very small) wouldn’t be in the face of the guy behind me. Noticing this, the guy (who had yelled at the one who grabbed my neck), nudged the guy in front of me and motioned for him to move. Lastly, at Yamuna Bank (I’ve grown to hate this station), another flood of people came in and the same guy was still in front of me, and when people came pouring in, he essentially held himself up against the pole and made a small barrier around me so I wouldn’t be uncomfortably pressed up against everyone coming in. I did not ask for these things, yet he was nice the entire ride from Rajiv Chowk to my station. Yet, people have been telling me to never use the men’s compartment because it is dangerous. I get odd looks at times, but that’s less irritating to me than someone pulling my hair, elbowing me in the face and looking at me like it’s my fault, talking on the phone and yelling their conversation in my ear, or pushing me because doing so will obviously make the metro a more peaceful experience for everyone else.
Couples here also like to do asinine things like sit on the staircase at busy metro stations to make kissy faces at one another, effectively making hundreds of people walk around them. But we get it, your private time in this very public place is more important than people going where they need to go.
Everyone laughed when I said I would be going to India because everyone who knows me knows that I generally hate people. I have very few friends, but they are good friends. I have a short fuse when it comes to people, and it is not difficult to get on my bad side. I also very obviously to not like crowded places, because like any normal person, I do not like to go to places filled with things that I hate. So, naturally, my family and friends said, “You realize you’re going to a place that is full of people? Billions of them?” I can handle it most days, but some days I just cannot. Especially not when one of them pulls my hair (I really cannot get over this).
Delhi is charming in its own way. I like it most days, but so far I really, truly, deeply favor Dehradun over Delhi, and I honestly do not really see myself coming back to Delhi for vacation…I’ll probably just spend a day or two here, then leave and spend weeks in other places that are less crowded, less hot, and devoid of incessant horn-honking.
I also really don’t like monkeys, and my university houses many of them. About a month ago one of them looked me in the eyes as I tried to run past it (I’m afraid of monkeys, stemming from a childhood experience at the zoo) and grabbed my hand. Then a few weeks later, as I was walking to class with a cup of coffee and unopened bag of cookies, another one ran circles around me and eventually started jumping at me, trying to steal my cookies. Neither of these experiences has made me any more warmly receptive to monkeys.