Eau de Delhi

After an entire day of travel (Calgary to Toronto, Toronto to Delhi), I have finally arrived at the Indira Ghandi International Airport in New Delhi. Our plane landed around 9:20 pm local time, which is twelve and a half hours ahead of home. In a nutshell, I have travelled to the future.

Anyone who has talked about going to India has heard something along the lines of “Delhi smells! As soon as you get off the plane, you can smell it!”

I would beg to differ on that all too familiar statement. I would say that you can smell it as soon as the plane lands. The wheels touch pavement and the aircrafts ventilation system starts circulating in that one-of-a-kind New Delhi air.

I think saying that Delhi “smells” is a bit harsh. That has a negative connotation to it, and let’s be honest…smell is a very personal thing. We all have one or two smells we enjoy that..really…are not commonly known as enjoyable. Some people like the smell of gasoline, skunk…you know what you like, don’t deny it! For me, I like the smell of wet dog (I’ll give you a minute to clear the confused and disgusted look from your face).

The plane landed, we clapped (it was a long flight and being on solid ground again was cause for small celebration) and then I breathed through my nose. The initial smell was not over-powering or “cover your face with a scarf” level of bad…but it was there and it demanded your attention. It was heavy, like the air after a downpour on a hot summer evening at a music festival; lightly tinted with sweat.

Stepping off the plane, it was the smell of campfire. Immediately and unmistakably campfire. I don’t actually think there was a campfire anywhere near me, but that was the smell. And I might have enjoyed it a bit, even if deep down I knew I was inhaling heaps of smog and polluted air.


Inside the airport and up until now, the air has remained distinctly Delhi. Similar to what I experienced upon landing, but more…powdery.

Have you ever had your teeth sanded? I’ve had a life of dental work and once in a while, in order to remove some cement or glue, the dentist would have to use a small electric sander on my teeth. The dust it created had its own unique smell and added a powdery texture to the air. The air I am breathing now feels that way, although I cannot see anything floating in front of my eyes, and the smell is similar, but less intense than actual tooth dust.

I haven’t experienced much of India yet; New Delhi just a one-night layover for me. I am currently sitting in bed at the airport hotel and in a few hours, I will board another plane and head to Varanasi, one of the big highlights of this trip for me.

Oh! There’s the campfire again! The smells are ever-changing.

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5 thoughts on “Eau de Delhi

  1. Glad you are finally there. Hope it turns out to be all you hoped for as I am sure it will! Thanks for sharing your journey with us. Can’t wait to hear more.

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