It’s Time to Celebrate Diwali in Delhi

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I’ll admit, I had many apprehensions about this part of our trip. I’ve seen the movies. I’ve read the blogs. I knew what to expect. It would be dirty, loud, polluted, and complete bedlam. Cows would be roaming the dusty streets as tuk-tuks and scooters whiz by the crowds of people. Cairo left such a bad taste in my mouth that I grew more nervous about how I would handle India as the day of our flight approached.

Did Delhi live up to my expectations? Yes.

Are there really cows strolling through the streets? Yes.

Do I hate it? Definitely not.

We couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to India than arriving in Delhi on the first day of Diwali. This is India’s biggest holiday. Hindus celebrate the end of monsoon season, begin the new fiscal year, exchange presents, and eat lots of sweets all while lighting candles and shooting off fireworks to honor the goddess of prosperity, Lakshmi. Think Christmas, New Year’s Eve, The 4th of July, and Thanksgiving all rolled into one.

We saw signs of Diwali everywhere on the bustling street outside our hotel (Main Bazaar Rd.). Women were dressed in their most colorful and sparkly saris. Shop owners were hanging decorations and lighting candles on their doorsteps. Women and children were selling strands of bright marigolds in the streets. Every once in a while we’d hear a loud firecracker in the distance.

It wasn’t until later that we realized just how wild Diwali gets in Delhi. (say that ten times fast While walking down a narrow ally right outside our hotel, Clark nearly had his leg blown off. I saw a little kid running away and covering his ears for some reason. I looked in the opposite direction and saw the firecracker just in timed to warn Clark before it exploded. This was the most powerful explosion I’ve ever felt. Yes, we could feel the explosion from this thing. My ears popped and they were ringing. I was sure that when I looked behind me, half of the building was going to be blown up.

This was just the beginning. As the evening wore on we heard more and more pops, crackles, and deafening bangs, and saw flashes from our window. We were even sitting in our room with earplugs. Our hotel had a rooftop terrace, so we decided to check things out. I don’t think I quite expected to see the chaos that ensured across the rooftops of Delhi.

People were on nearly every rooftop lighting everything from sparklers to big-ass fireworks. There were bursts of light as far as the eye could see. Needless to say, we ran down for the camera. We were soon joined by other hotel guests and we all marveled at the insanity of Diwali.

Several times we witnessed a few fireworks backfire and explode at roof level as people scattered for cover. Bottle rockets were whizzing around and we could see them landing right on other peoples’ roofs. Luckily, we never really had a close call. After hours and hours of explosions the sky was filled with smoke (and some leftover smog). American cities on the 4th of July ain’t got nothin’ on Delhi. The noise died down around 2 a.m., but we woke up occasionally to a loud pop all night long. They really know how to celebrate in Delhi.

I can safely say that I like Delhi. It is very dirty and sometimes stinky. You do almost get run over by scooters and tuk-tuks. The hotel rooms are kind of gross. There is no toilet paper in the bathrooms. But, the city alive with activity. It has a great feel. It helps that I love the food. We’ve had some great palak paneer, masala dosa, naan, and lentil curry. We even tried our hand at bargaining and got a shirt (for Clark), silk dress, and scarf for 750 Rs (That’s about $15).

After just two days, nearly all my apprehensions are gone. Except maybe about the gross hotel rooms. We have a particularly nasty one here in Agra, but what do you expect for $8?

Posted from: Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.

Kim and Clark Kays
Kim & Clark Kays quit their jobs for an uncertain trip around the world. Originally from St. Louis, they relocated to Chicago after getting married in 2005. After working for five years in middle school and the Fortune 500, they realized there was more to life than the 9-to-5, so made the crazy decision to exchange money for time rather than the other way around.

Their hobbies include fighting over writing styles and searching for gelato. They think food, beer, architecture, and photography are some of the best things about travel—especially when combined. Their travel blog, To Uncertainty and Beyond, includes long-term travel tips as well as humorous anecdotes from their journey through Europe and Asia. They invite you to experience their journey and learn from their adventures and mistakes.
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