Drawing in the Land of Errant Rickshaws and Dashboard Ganeshes

So much time has past since my last blog post: I was making a giant snow monkey in the cold north of Japan and now I find myself in one of the hottest and most uncomfortable climates on planet Earth: summer in New Delhi. I was offered a year contract as an illustrator and cartoonist with India’s largest financial newspaper, The Economic Times, and found the opportunity too exciting to pass up. Although I am keeping a few freelance clients from home for the year, it is the first office job I’ve ever had and now find myself in the strange position of working in a cubicle surrounded by the chaos of a busy Indian newsroom. The offices are located in central Delhi on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, a collection of newspapers buildings that is the Indian equivalent of London’s Fleet Street. Except it’s a Fleet Street with monkeys. They live behind the newspaper offices in a large green space and old Muslim graveyard.

The culture shock was quite intense, and the most difficult initial adjustment was getting used to the insanity of the traffic. Rickshaws dodge around huge trucks and barely miss bicycles coming towards oncoming vehicles as occasional cows wander through the roads. We even saw two grown men having a casual conversation in the middle of a four lane highway, seemingly undisturbed at the concept of imminent death. Although a skeptic, I found myself quickly wanting to find out who the Hindu God of Traffic Safety might be and offering my most intense devotion, and best sticks of incense.

India is a challenge. Not just for westerners, but also for many Indians as well. The lack of infrastructure, the extreme weather and the labyrinth of bureaucracy are enough to make most foreigners look for the nearest airport. Or pharmacy. But there are many positives as well: an ancient history with awe-inducing ruins, kind friends who would do almost anything for you, incredible varieties of culinary delights and the chance to learn much more about a country that is so confusingly different. It will be an interesting year. I just hope a monkey, or editor, doesn’t bite me and I’ll have to go in for the series of rabies shots.

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