delhi: first impressions

By: Ron Cruz


Who will be ready for India? For sure I wasn’t. But will anyone ever be?

My destination for this trip was Kashmir and before I start haranguing non-stop of its awesomeness, let me tell you a short story of Delhi and how she welcomed me:


Delhi, the capital. She is that neighbor who is studded with secrets; the eclectic woman who collects junks like cloths, plastic ornaments, bright stained bottles and hanging them as decoration of some sort; whose kitchen spew fumes of rich spices, herbs and floral extracts that would tickle even the most jaded taste buds of residents across its 500-meter radius. She is that neighbor who dared not speak to anyone but flashes a genuine smile, but no matter how uneasy it makes you, there is a certain warmth that you are consciously trying to deny because she is shrouded with clandestine reputation…

Well, you get the picture.


It was hot when I arrived, actually too hot. At 40°C, I was juicing-out sweat on all surface of human anatomy. The scent of something burning kicked my adrenalin—it was me, the sun was scorching my skin.

My local host brought me to his place in Jeevan Park.

Jeevan means LIFE in Hindi, and the place is living-up with its namesake. I googled the location and I couldn’t seem to find any photos of the streets and alleys. Perhaps nobody attempted taking out their cameras or phones for obvious safety reasons.

It was like Tondo but more notorious, like Sampaloc but more cramped, like Binondo but more visually stimulating.

Cars all covered with thick dust, dents and scratches, parked along the alleys meant for one-way traffic. How we eased our van through it is beyond my faith and sanity. Not to mention an obstacle of kids walking home from school consciously ignoring the continuous car horns. Don’t even dare shouting at them and they will throw rocks on your windshield. Which explains the dents and scratches…

Well, you get the picture.



On the roadside is a garbage disposal area with cows, birds, dogs and pigs scavenging for food and lying down for siesta. Right across is a place radiating with robust machismo—pop-up barbershop, gambling huddles of some sort and make shift drinking tables where men age 14-50 nestled closely for an afternoon session.

The sightings of men casually holding hands gave me a reassurance that they are harmless.

So, I stepped-out of the van, closed my eyes and charged-in. Lo and behold! In front of me was a police officer grabbing a young man by the collar and bitch-slapping him repeatedly, it looked so painful Tim McGraw would be proud. The goal was to buy 4 bottles of Ice-cold Heineken and leave as fast as possible.

But things happen faster in Delhi, I turned around with cold beer bottles in my hands and the guy behind me raised his bleeding hand with a facial expression clearly saying I don’t give a fuck. Before I even get the chance to investigate on what and how it happened, my host Rajan (not his real name) appeared out of nowhere, grabbed me by my shirt and dragged me to the haphazardly parked van “Hurry, HURRY! We need to leave the place!”

It was so full of life, I never felt so alive.


The scents in the air are extremely confusing that it could induce epileptic seizure. I was trying to identify what or where the smell is coming from as we drive through the city, but it was impossible: Curry, cumin, wet barn, burning curry, garbage, jasmine, electro-cautery no mutton kebab, cinnamon, dog poop no human poop.

With heat, shocking incidents and olfactory test, It was nothing short a full sensory assault.

Delhi is the affirmation of why I wanted to see the world. This city is so rich and stimulating, it excites me pleasantly and otherwise. It may not be a manicured holiday destination and they won’t provide kiss-your-ass service, but at least the people are real, what you see is what you get.




I asked Rajan if I could give Pani puri off the street a shot. He told me not to, “I’m Indian, and if I eat from that vendor I will have diarrhea.”

I insisted. But that means I need to cross the street and Delhi drivers are those types that came right out of Grand Theft Auto V. So I found myself stuck in the middle of the road, like a helpless kitten confabulated as to which direction to turn “Oh sh*t, WTH!? F*******k!!!”

Again, Rajan appeared out of nowhere to save the day “It’s ok, it’s ok, no problem. RELAX… Hold my hand.” <slowmo… cue: Got to Believe in Magic!>

Well, you get the picture.




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  • Claire | Traveling Light

    November 2, 2014 at 5:16 am

    So this is the story behind the Gotta Believe In Magic holding hands scene hehehe.

    “like Binondo but more visually stimulating.” –> This gives me even more reason to see India, particularly New Delhi. 🙂

  • flipntravels

    November 2, 2014 at 5:27 am

    hahahaha yeah, ang moment ng HHWW. LOL


    November 2, 2014 at 8:59 am

    “It was so full of life, I never felt so alive.” – Hahaha! Our experience in the state of Tamil Nadu didn’t have the same intensity. Para ka lang nasa Bollywood movie, kulang na lang dance numberS (kelangan marami).

  • flipntravels

    November 2, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    kailangan natin i-achieve ang bollywood dream natin!

  • Chyng Reyes

    November 7, 2014 at 2:39 am

    delhi, where i almost lost my left leg! haha

    i love japan – beautiful and high tech. but i like india too, dirty and exciting!

  • paul | walkflypinoy

    November 8, 2014 at 2:46 am

    Yes to all of this! Haha. Well, except for the holding hands. Maybe I should’ve tried that. You know, just for the experience. Haha. I thought I’ve seen crazy driving until I got to Delhi. And so random, too, like a buck-naked dude in the middle of the street. Delhi is where I truly felt India was something else, something else entirely.

  • flipntravels

    November 9, 2014 at 2:24 am

    true, may something sa personality ng india na wala kahit saan!

  • flipntravels

    November 9, 2014 at 2:25 am

    And I stayed in jevan park, parang sampaloc version nila. imagine the chaos and raw character. love it!

  • lamyerda

    November 26, 2014 at 3:10 am

    Never been to India mukhang exciting xa. wala aco mahanap na kasama mukhang scary sa babae pag solo?

    It was so full of life, I never felt so alive. – hahahaha.

    Nahiya aco sa HHWW..

  • flipntravels

    February 1, 2015 at 6:34 am

    sama ka pag balik ko!!!

  • Mar Wanderlust

    May 19, 2015 at 8:15 am

    I like the holding hand part..hahahaha! Indian guys are gorgeous! I spent 3 months in India because I read somewhere that it is the “mother” of all backpacking destinations. First day in Paharganj Delhi and I understood why.

    Sometimes I don’t understand the sort of animosity or just a bad stereotype of your average Filipinos towards India. They badly need to experience the country and be proven wrong.

    I’m a fan of your writing style, Ron!

  • Taligsik Kalangitan

    December 31, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    Paharganj, i love the chaos :). I like to walk from my hostel to the railway station.

  • Taligsik Kalangitan

    December 31, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    I have met a Malaysian lady (Chinese ethnicity) in Amritsar-Punjab, India. She said she loves India however she said she suffered mild harassment during her stay.

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