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  • Writer's pictureKirk

Mobbed in Delhi, India

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

On a trip to Delhi I needed to make currency exchange for the Indian rupee. Unknown to me at the time, was Modi's policies would make this difficult. I went to several ATMs only to find they were out of currency. I found later that Modi's policies restricted the amount of money that could be exchanged at that time.

The hotel recommended a place within walking distance where exchange could be made in person so I promptly walked the 1/2 mile. Upon entry I could see a considerable cue as many wanted to do the same. I was the only westerner in line of about 20 people. It was here I first learned (and re-affirmed many times later), cue etiquette is not respected in India. It's the Wild West! Cutting in front is more the norm there but I caught on quickly and learned to stay my ground even though it is against the more polite etiquette I was accustomed to.

After some time I made it to one of the desks where I began the lengthy process of exchange. After much manual copying of visa, passport, and boarding pass as well as lengthy paperwork, I was able to make exchange of a small sum of money (I think maybe $150 worth).

Exiting the exchange place and walking back to the hotel I encountered a very large group of women holding babies that were asking for money from any who passed by. They were ignored by all that I saw. But having sympathy for their plight I entered into a mistake I could not foresee.

The first woman I encountered, I pulled out my wad of newly exchanged rupees (this 10,000 rupees at the time was a lot to them as I was to learn) and gave the equivalent of $7.50 to her. I had no idea what I was doing. This small gesture caused me a significant amount of distress.

When the mob of women with babies saw this they surrounded me with hands out. There must have been about 40-50 of these women plus their babies crowding in on me. I had no idea what to expect. Are they violent? Do they have hidden weapons? These were thoughts that went through my naive head. But what I knew was I could not move. I was encapsulated.

I didn't have that much cash I could part with to alleviate their demand. I wished I had a handful of coins I could throw in the air so I could make an escape as they gathered. But I had no natural recourse.

Against the polite society rules in which I was raised I had no choice but to physically force my way through these women, pushing them gently aside as I moved. But they moved with me. I was getting more claustrophobic now.

Finally I made a mad push and rush through the mob and exited outside the circle. I hoped I had not knocked any women with babies down during this endeavor. Finally outside the circle I knew I could outrun this baby carrying mob so that is what I did.

Later I told this story to a local who told me it was a dangerous thing I had done on the streets of Delhi. But how was I to know?

Since that incident I have become more knowledgeable to the unwritten rules of India. I would not repeat this mistake. There are other, more effective and safer ways to donate to the alleviate the poverty in this country.

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Roger Wells
Roger Wells

Omg. I can’t imagine what you must have thought once you were surrounded. I really worry about you in these foreign countries.

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