First Assignment by Suzanne Willey

PRIMITIVE - Tuesday, December 30, 2008

This time of year, Delhi is enveloped with fog. It hangs in the air all day, and at night enters into the hotel lobby. Like Chicago, it's winter, but it's not a Chicago winter. The evenings are cool, not bitterly cold, and the four of us wear jackets.

Glen, Claudia, and Joe had begun the trip much earlier. Glen left for China. Claudia and Joe traveled to Kathmandu and Tibet. We all met up in Delhi and plan to stay here for a few more days.

No honking

Today, Joe and I received an assignment and we set out for Old Delhi. It was created before the British invaded and has remained untouched, growing organically through the centuries. Our destination within Old Delhi was an area called Chandi Chok.

Old Delhi is the antithesis of everything Western, a jungle of narrow streets and piles of buildings. If you squint to narrow and blur your vision, it could be Venice on a cloudy evening; but it’s not. Our attempts to get directions were thwarted by a lack of language and street signs. My first day on the job and we were lost.