It was so cold in Delhi that the goats were wearing coats. India is like a colossal untouchable petting zoo with goats, dogs, pigs, and cows free ranging everywhere – even on major highways. With a low of 1 degree C. (just above freezing) in December of 2012 Delhi had the coldest day in 130 years, and in the state of Uttar Pradesh alone, 150 people died from the cold. So much for my warm winter escape from Colorado. Our plane had landed in New Delhi in a haze of fog, which made it rather unreal and dreamlike – enhancing my already mystical idea of India. The bone-chilling December fog was filled with wood-fire smoke.
People are living on the streets – on traffic medians and any empty lot – huddled around fires. These squatters – many of them refugees from Bangladesh looking for work – live in dwellings made of rags, cardboard and plastic tarps. Residents huddled around cooking fires looking like normal families. It didn’t seem sad and pathetic. Flat and smoggy with palms and tropical trees, terrible traffic and abysmal slums, Delhi reminded me of Mexico City. According to our superlative Indian guide Ranvir, no Indians need starve. Both Hindus and Sikhs operate daily soup kitchens open to all.
Like Mexico, India is a shock and stimulant to the senses. It’s vibrant with color and street life –not like the US in winter with everyone warmly shuttered inside and deserted suburban neighborhoods. In India the streets are alive and buzzing with activity — and animals!
India is very ecumenical, respecting all religions — of which it has more than 30, including predominantly Hindus, plus Muslims, Sikhs, Bahais, Jains, Buddhists and Christians.