Experiencing Hyperdensity in Old Delhi

A tourist visit through the oldest, densest part of Delhi, India, reveals the chaos and beauty of hyperdensity.

1 minute read

March 19, 2020, 6:00 AM PDT

By Josh Stephens @jrstephens310


Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock

"The amount of activity going on beyond the tea-maker, in the small plaza where three of Old Delhi’s major streets converge ("major" meaning a street that can accommodate two cars heading in opposite directions), renders his pyrotechnics nearly unnoticeable. They pale in comparison with the multidimensional chaos of bicycles, scooters, tuk-tuks, pedicabs, hand carts, and foot traffic—and, yes, the occasional cow—that makes Old Delhi what it is."

"So consuming is Old Delhi, I suspect that many of its residents spend their entire lives there without leaving even once. Many of them probably don’t have the means to leave. Most of them may have no motivation. Everyone they know, and everyone they have ever known, lives there. I’d have been instantly lost without my tourist guide, forced to navigate a million blind corners and not get swept up in the crowd."

"Perhaps no urban environment accentuates the human body—the sheer physicality of everyday existence—so much as Old Delhi does. Traveling even a block requires contortions, dodges, near-misses, collisions, stutter-steps, and more contortions."

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