The other side
I’m not sure if the grass is ever greener on the other side, except if you’ve escaped the shroud of pea-soup thick smog that’s taken over Delhi, then the grass here is definitely greener along with the trees and the shrubs. So much so that we’ve been taking pictures of the leaves and sending them back to family in Delhi since the other gal thinks they look fake. It sets you off on a curious tangent to ponder the differences in a place that you don’t notice until someone who spends less time there points them out. At the same time as we are snapping pics of would-be fake plants the Prime Minister of India has dropped a bombshell stamping out would be fake, or black money. The smog thickens…
But that’s not the India I see, I see the culture and connection, the spirituality and ironically a sense of freedom I don’t always see here. I tell the other gal often that one day I’ll make her fall in love with India. But for now, she’s enjoying the freshness of the air in Australia, the broad stretches of white sand and the lapis blue of the waves beneath the summer sunshine. For an hour at a time; because we’ve learnt this week that you pay for parking by the hour at most beaches, not pay by the hour in advance, but literally an hour at a time. So you dry yourself, dust off the sand and pop another five dollars in the meter, or maybe move your car and then go back to the beach…repeat…and herein lies just one of the many reasons why your driver in Delhi is worth their weight in gold.
If there were beaches in Delhi (picture scenes from Bombay), the other gal says it would become a dumping ground (both rubbish and morning defecations) with people selling everything from warm coconuts to hot chai and not a swimsuit to be seen. But at least while you were rummaging enough space to lay down a beach towel, your driver could pop out and pick up your groceries, do a quick stop to get take-away or even run to the chemist and grab any medications you might need. You can literally buy some antibiotics over the counter, one tablet at a time, contrary to when we walked into a chemist here and I was asked for photo ID to buy an everyday painkiller. Really? After photocopies of my licence were duly taken I was given the box of tablets. This type of over governance while funny, often seems quite silly and ultimately time consuming. In India, it’s precisely the lack of governance that has probably gone a long way towards creating some of its many challenges but surely there’s a middle ground somewhere. There you can pick up birth control over the counter, here you need a doctor’s appointment and with many places only open for the same hours that most people are working, it’s a little tricky. That said, I’ll let the irony speak for itself. In the spirit of convenience however, the other day we saw a vending machine in Sydney dispensing Havaiana’s beach thongs for $30 a pair and wondered what’s next.
Every time we get in the car we laugh at the sheer expanse of Sydney, literally everywhere is 60km away and we spend hours chatting and laughing on connecting freeways and endless roads that lay like charcoal ribbons through the sparkling greenery. It takes an hour to get anywhere though we’ve covered great distances. It’s of no concern here to see that a place is 100km away, in Delhi that distance could take the better part of a day. I remember once seeing a sign for Agra that said 183km and thought we’d be there by lunch, but what with the donkeys, auto-rickshaws and rambling cattle I’m sure the sun was setting with the last visitors trickling out of the Taj’s carpark. We laugh at what we would see in India covering that far, here we see expanse and so we get why public transport doesn’t quite hit the spot here; the other day she asked if we get buses along the main road and when I asked if she’d seen one, she replied “I’ve hardly even seen a bus in Sydney.”
Our highly congested all-too-regular traffic jams on occasion resemble Delhi but without the dust and the street-side carts piled high with sweets pressed together open to the wind and pollution. If the residue of firecrackers from Diwali wasn’t enough to fill the air, we hear people are burning piles of cash rather than declare it in India’s latest wave stamping out black money. Yes, the air is cleaner here, but what you see on any given stretch of road in Delhi truly is a feast for the senses.
What Sydney may lack in a sort of unpredictable vibrancy, it makes up for in exactly what is born of it’s expansiveness; a far reaching open sky, clear air and a magnificent coastline that looks like a map from up high. It’s a city that needs time to navigate but here we never seem to have enough to fully enjoy its beauty, in India all we have is time. We love the differences, the personality of each city and laughing over the little comparisons that make you realise that you can’t really compare at all.