Out of Station: Delhi After Dark

Kassia Karr and other denizens of Delhi escape the heat by picnicking after sundown.

I moved my life to Delhi, at least temporarily, but did so at a less-than-opportune time: the height of summer. Delhi summers are brutal. They’re unbearably hot, dusty, and humid, with infrequent breezes that blow in off the desert to make the air even warmer. Shifting to a Delhi summer from a particularly mild New England spring hasn’t been the easiest transition to living in India, though it has been an appropriate introduction to the city and its patterns of life.

Chip vendor, India Gate, Delhi

Chip vendor, India Gate, Delhi (August 2010)

One way Delhiites manage to survive the summer is by avoiding the daylight hours as much as possible and going out for activities after dark. The whole of the Rajpath area, which runs from the President’s residence past the India Gate memorial and ends at the National Stadium, is packed with families and groups of teenagers who come after the sun has settled and the heat and humidity have dropped. They bring picnics and sit to eat them in the Rajpath lawns, or simply wander alongside a sea of vendors who sell all variety of snacks and cheap plastic toys.

Balloon Vendor, India Gate, Delhi

Balloon Vendor, India Gate, Delhi (August 2010)

There are also several weekly neighborhood markets that are held in the evening hours, when the crowds are more willing to come out and shop. These markets have basic staples, like fruits and vegetables, but also all sorts of household goods — plastic containers, cups, mugs, rugs. There are even clothing vendors, undergarment vendors, stalls selling jewelry and hair clips — everything you might find in a large department store, except arranged in a sprawling fashion through streets and alleys.

Clothing stall, Rajendra Nagar night market, Delhi

Clothing stall, Rajendra Nagar night market, Delhi (August 2010)

Jewelry Vendor, Rajendra Nagar night market, Delhi

Jewelry Vendor, Rajendra Nagar night market, Delhi (August 2010)

The advent of the monsoon season makes it less necessary to avoid the outdoors during the daytime, but it brings its own challenges — flooded streets, waterlogged engines, and the impossibility of keeping clothing from getting muddy. Winter is just around the corner, as well, which will bring close-to-freezing temperatures (I was surprised to learn that bit — that a place so unbelievably hot most of the year can actually have a proper winter!). Sandals will be traded for shoes, and salwars for sweaters. In the meantime, this interminable heat is bound to keep Delhi nights lively.

Kassia Karr is a graduate of Boston University, where she concentrated in South Asian and development studies. She currently lives and works at a design studio in New Delhi. Check out her website.