Tuesday, 23 October 2012

On surprises, elephants and counting oneself lucky

My last post was a bit gloomy, so I'm putting up a quick one to reassure everyone that I don't hate Delhi, honestly. In fact I'm feeling quite well-disposed towards it just now, largely because it's finally, finally starting to cool down a bit. In fact today we had an unexpected afternoon rainstorm and when I walked outside my office it was actually lovely - cool, crisp, with that post-rain tang in the air...just perfect. I stood there breathing deeply for a good three or four minutes (breathing in goodness knows how much particulate matter, but let's skate over that), no doubt making the security guards think I am completely barmy.

Well, actually they already think I am completely barmy, due to the ongoing saga of The Foreigner Who Can't Make Up His Mind When He Wants His Lunch, but I'll save that for another day. Anyway, the point is, beautiful, cool, refreshing evening ensued. It's been a very long time since I've been able to say that. So that was a nice surprise.

Delhi does spring nice surprises on you every now and then. Like this one, which was outside my front door when I left the house a couple of weeks ago:

In case any of you are thinking that elephants are an everyday sight in Delhi, they're not. As evidenced by the fact that the cluster of locals on the right of the photo were every bit as fascinated as I was (which made me feel a bit less like a gawking foreigner). I think this was perhaps the third one I've seen in the city. They're still used as beasts of burden, but it's not surprising that these days the alternatives seem rather more practical. Still, no JCB was ever as photogenic as this.

If elephants are a rare sight in the city, its animal life is still quite extraordinary for someone like me (for whom "urban wildlife" consists of mangy pigeons, the odd fox and the dead rat I had to scrape off my patio a couple of summers back). In Delhi you're as likely to see parrots as pigeons, and while I'm sure there are rats aplenty they get less attention than the frankly vicious monkeys that inhabit the trees and rooftops. I count myself lucky not to have seen any snakes, and the worst thing I've had in my flat (apart from the notorious termites) have been a few medium-sized cockroaches. Alas, my resident population of geckos have vanished (I hope they moved out, but I suspect the pest control methods used to get rid of the termites may have been somewhat apocalyptic in nature).

And if none of those beasties appeals, there are always Delhi's stray dogs, who seem almost as numerous as the people. I was a bit intimidated by them at first, but they are in general surprisingly docile. The worst thing is the fact that so many of them are missing a limb - the consequence, I presume, of their rather foolish habit of going to sleep at full stretch by the side of roads down which Delhi drivers hurtle on a regular basis. One of them has been adopted by the security guards at our office and regularly plonks himself down at the bottom of the steps at the entrance; I've got used to taking a big stride when leaving the building to avoid treading on him. Indeed it seems like most of the city's injured canines are adopted by someone or other - it's hard to imagine they would last long against the competition if they weren't - which is a rather endearing feature of city life.

It's easy, when you are busy with your working day and regular routine, to focus on those aspects of the city that frustrate and irritate, and to overlook the things that make you smile. But no doubt when I come to leave here, I'll look back on the time when I found an elephant outside my front door and reflect that it's not a circumstance I'm ever likely to experience again. It may seem a silly thing, but it does remind me how lucky I am to have the chance to experience a place so completely different from my home, even with all its challenges.

Anyway, autumn is here, the days are warm, and the streets of Defence Colony have acquired a sun-dappled hush (in between the honks). It's a good time to be in Delhi.


Isabel said...

I'm glad the weather is becoming more bearable and that you're feeling better. I have posts coming up on snakes and cockroaches so do visit my window soon!

Bibi said...

That's one of the things I miss about living in Delhi. Yes, the weather is miserable in Delhi for the most of the year. But if you get up at the 'crack of dawn' you'll often see bedecked & bejeweled elephants, gorgeously attired white stallions, even beautifully decorated camels being brought into the city for weddings & parties. I guess they bring them in so early to avoid traffic.
You'll also see herds of goats & the occasional huge pig being brought in for slaughter in the early morning. That I didn't like so much. But that's were 'meat' comes from.

Sonya said...

You're absolutely right of course. I shall commence my blessings-count immediately. Love the elephant photo! xx

Anonymous said...

I love the animals in India. Even the mundane ones like cows are endlessly fascinating for me.

Chris said...

Thanks for your comments everyone! The animal life in Delhi is one of the best things about the city, although some of the poor dogs are heart breaking.

I've seen pigs in Gurgaon, indeed I actually tripped over one coming out of an office building a few months back. I haven't seen any camels yet though Bibi - will look out for them!

Chris said...

Isabel I am looking out for your snakes and cockroaches eagerly!