Arriving in Delhi, overwhelmed with wood smoke, honking horns and colorfully painted goods carrier trucks.
We arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, India at 1:30 a.m. from our layover in Heathrow. I had added the cities we were visiting to my iPhone weather app prior to our arrival and will admit I was wholly unfamiliar with the weather condition of “smoke.” It turned out to be a soupy haze caused by assorted pollutants.
Once we had passed through customs, collected our luggage and exited the airport, it hits you. The air was acrid and thick with the aroma of sandalwood incense. Overpowering the incense is wood smoke from cooking fires, burnt plastic, dust and diesel exhaust punctuated by a cacophony of honking horns.
Horn OK Please!
On our way to our hotel, we passed colorfully detailed Goods Carrier vehicles. These trucks, which are compact in size, reminded me of carnival-style food trailers. Many of them have hanging brass bells adorning their bumpers and occasionally threads of tinsel added for good measure. One of the trucks had an inscription painted in bright blue shadowed in white on its back bumper exclaiming, “Love Speed Great India 40km.” Our driver told us that trucks are only allowed to use the highways at night.
These vehicles have their permit, the AIP (All India Permit), which allows the holder to drive throughout the country, painted on the side of the truck. Occasionally this stylization appears like a yin yang, reminiscent of the Pepsi-Cola logo but in the tricolor of the national flag of India: saffron, white and green.
Stainless steel organic-looking sculptures emerged in clusters along the highway. Added to the AIIMS flyover during the 2010 Commonwealth Games and designed by sculptor Vibhor Sogani for Jindal Stainless, they appeared like highly polished steel bean sprouts.
Powder blue police barricades with red plastic tube LED lights strung atop separate lanes were painted messages like the following: “True we slow you down. But we try not to let criminals slip by.” A steaming vat of tar simmered alongside, undoubtedly contributing to the aforementioned nasal miasma. –Duke