After visiting New Delhi’s Red Fort, one of the must-see attractions in this bustling city, Jeff and I set off for a leisurely wander through the nearby neighborhood. There was a mosque we wanted to see, but we decided to not go there directly, but instead to wander past the shops, perhaps finding somewhere to grab lunch first. We’d heard terrible things about Delhi prior to arriving. Basically, everyone told us to stay there the shortest amount of time possible, but we didn’t find it to be that crazy or difficult. In comparison, to Agra or Varanasi, which were still to come, Delhi was easy. And so wandering, our favorite travel activity, seemed like a good way to get our first taste of India.
We saw lots of things we expected. We didn’t see other things (no free-ranging cows). What we saw and remember most, though, wasn’t strictly a Delhi thing or even an Indian thing, but something that speaks to the universal spirit of children.
See the blue cart in the center of the photo? That cage-like cart, which was being pulled by a bicycle, was the Delhi version of a school bus. It was crammed full with small boys in uniforms of white shirt, white pants, white socks, and black shoes. Notice that in this photo, the small boy hanging out the back door who seems to be cheering for something.
He was cheering for the boy that you see being lifted into the cart in this second photo. Jeff and I were standing outside of a shop when this small boy came flying out of the shop and started tearing down the street, dodging cars and motorcycles and carts and all the other crazy things you find in the streets of India. Clutched tightly in his fists were a couple of bags of chips. We looked at each other, and wondered, because of the speed of his escape from the store, whether he’d stolen them. We then heard the loud cheers of a chorus of young boys. We followed the sound until our eyes spotted the cart, realizing then that the boy was chasing after it. As he approached the cart, a couple of boys jumped out the back. Some of the chips were passed into the cart, as one of the bigger boys tried to help the boy with the chips back into the cart.
Eventually, they succeed in getting the boy back into the cart. The entire time the boys were yelling and screaming and cheering as if they had just won some huge prize. Meanwhile, the cart driver didn’t even bother to see what was going on. Perhaps this was an everyday occurrence. Perhaps this boy was the king of chips. Or perhaps each boy took a turn, proving himself to the others by jumping out of the cart, running into a store and purchasing chips for his mates, and then catching back up with the cart. Whatever it was, it was totally hilarious.
And it resulted in some very self-satisfied boys, who reminded us that regardless of whether their school transportation is a bright yellow school bus or a blue cart pulled by a bike, boys will be boys.