Where I come from only certain types of people take cabs regularly and have drivers. I am not one of them. So even when I'm traveling and private transportation is cheap, my first inclination is usually to walk. Delhi, though, isn't very pedestrian-friendly. It's all wide roads that feel like highways thanks to the sheer number and speed of the cars. Many don't even have sidewalks. I guess it's sort of like LA in that respect; you learn to live in your car.
The first few times I was taken somewhere by a driver it felt a little luxurious basking in the cool blast of the AC in the back seat. But then the swerving, honking and sudden breaking commenced, and I had to wonder - was "Delhi belly" really just a reference to food-borne illness or could it also apply to motion sickness?
I took a cab to Qutub Minar, a religious site southwest of the city center recommended to me by my friend's fiance. On a Saturday afternoon it was beyond crowded. There was a metal detector at the entrance, but the guard kept waving us through with the machine's incessant beeping rising above the sound of hundreds of shuffling feet. I had joked at dinner about my timing on this trip - first Ramadan in Morocco and now monsoon season in India. It didn't rain too hard that day, but it was enough for people to take shelter in the ruins.
Later, after the showers had subsided, I noticed a few teenaged boys heading toward me. I maintained my course, but one finally caught up with me.
"Excuse me, miss," he said. "Picture, please?"
I assumed that he meant he wanted a group photo with his friends, but when I asked for the camera no one moved. Then it hit me - I was the subject of the photo. So, one by one, they each came up to have their picture taken while another snapped the picture on a phone. I had heard of this happening to my blonde, fair-skinned friends, but since India is practically neighbors with countries whose citizens look like me I was rather taken aback.
Later, it happened again. A young girl asked for a photo, and I said yes. Then, in turn, I took pictures with her two sisters and mother while the father held the camera.
I'm not sure whether they wanted the photos because I look so different from all the other - predominantly Indian - tourists, or because I was sweating a million times more than anyone else. (I was secretly glad when it rained because it provided a logical explanation for why my shirt appeared to be wet). Maybe it was both.
In retrospect I should have made them work harder for it - orchestrated some hadoukening or vadering or something. Regardless, I can't wait for pictures of me looking absolutely disgusting to surface on some strangers' Facebook timelines. I wonder what the captions will say.