We started our Cultural immersion program with our programme co-ordinator. We learnt some basic Hindi and some enlightening facts about the history on India, the culture, the religions and politics.
Gurgaon (where we are staying for our orientation), we are told, is one of the most affluent and safest areas of Delhi, its where the new industries have been starting to flourish and will be the new center of business. I remember being driven past the office towers of Citibank, ABN Amro, etc built with more impressive architecture than back home, and looking quite out of place in the dusty landscape. Our apartment complex is guarded like fortress, like a haven to those who come priveldged enough within its four walls. The apartment building is not luxurious by Australian standards but more than adequate for our needs and even more so for the average Indian.
During our free time, me and David (a fellow volunteer from Iceland) went down to the main center of town, City Mall via rickshow to check things out. Juxtaposed within the dusty dirty landscape of street harkers, cows and merchants rose blocks of modern malls and new buildings in the process of rapid construction.
It interesting to see how even in the shopping mall district where a highway divides the area into two there were no pedestrain crossings to get to the other side. The town planners already knew that people would never use one anyway. To cross the road you just had to run head long into the traffic across the busy freeway and hope you dont die in the process. I held my breathe followed the lead of one of the locals and lived on to eat my masala chips I picked up at one of the vendors.
Finally! Something at Maccas I can eat!
Malls in India seem to have the things we also have available in Australia from Maccas, Levi’s, Giordanos aswell as stores that they have only in India like Baazaar and Tata and stores like TGI Fridays, Ruby Tuesdays that seemly all other countries get to have but us . Prices were defintitely alot cheaper… only the equivalent of a few dollars for the jeans, shirts, and progressively higher for the more familiar brands. I couldve felt more at home if it wasnt for the security guards posted outside every store and the body scans we needed to go through get into each othe malls. They may have been there to make us feel more secure clutching their rifles but it didnt seem to quite have the intended effect on me. Despite the airbrushed posters of Bollywood models drapped accross the walls enticing me to drink “Bubbly”, something just didnt quite sit right, maybe the unsmiling gazes of the multitudes of sales people waiting to assist the nearest customer or the unnerving stares from the men in the restrooms also trying to assist you. Maybe “Bubbly” was something everyone else thought we were drinking.
Once back out on the street, it became apparent we were an easy target for child beggars. Their formula was simple: Cute, grubby and very very persistent. David with his blond hair and fair skin had it worse off, as we were chased by one of them through the traffic and only managed to escape by climbing onto a rickshaw and heading straight back home to our fortress.
These beggar kids came up to our car when we stopped. Instead of giving them money, I took a photo and showed it to them. They giggled and became children again – its probably not often they get to see themselves.
Still cant upload photos, but at least my credit card woes are sorted now.