Infrastructure of Delhi

Despite of the fact that India is a very populated country (1.3 billions people, which is close to the population of China), and Delhi is the capital, according to the official data, has 19 millions, high buildings for apartments are not popular here.  In China, for example, a standard residential building has 30 floors, while office buildings are often 100-floors skyscrapers, even small cities are full of them.  In India, in the contrary, there is quite less of them and most of the residential buildings are not even 10-floors high (well, the new residential complexes are being made like this only). However, Mumbai is famous for high buildings but in Delhi it is prohibited to make residential buildings higher than 3-4 floors. Which is, of course, makes the city to be not compact. But the Indians do not like when they have to have neighbors on the floor – they think it is not too safe.  For the same reason they prefer to live in residential complexes (societies), rather than individual buildings because  there are always securities.

In general, safety issue in India is a whole big topic which requires a different serious article.  And I will write it. For sure. But in the meantime, let’s get back to infrastructure.

In fact, the buildings here are always one floor higher than it sounds.  It all because Indians count it not from the first floor but from the zero (ground floor) and the first one is the second, accordingly.  Most ground floors, however, are not residential but used for all kinds of small businesses: shops, cafes, beauty salons, etc.  Small business in India is very developed, because with so big population there is not enough work for everyone.  But small shops survive here because people prefer to buy food near to the house rather than go to supermarkets. Even the kind of shops which wouldn’t be allowed to open in another country in the first place, due to the lack of facilities.

Often small business owners own the whole building itself, live in one of the apartments and give another flats for rent.  Generally, if you rent an apartment, it is likely to happen that the owner will be your neighbor.  The Indians are very scrupulous in giving their apartments for rent. Here to rent a house is not so easy task.  This topic also surely deserves a separate article.

Street infrastructure is very less developed in Delhi: there are practically almost no urns, sidewalks, benches, flower beds on the streets. It can be there near to some famous places, parks, shopping malls, but not the normal streets usually.

It is precisely because of the lack of dustbins on the streets it is dirty here (although since 2017 I have noticed that it became still much cleaner – people started to clean the streets every day).

Even if there is a sidewalk, almost no one uses it, because  small business owners usually occupy the entire sidewalk near them as well, and it can be very dirty.  Indians generally do not walk much, actually, because of cheap transport – they can take rickshaws even for literally very short distances.  But those who walk, walk along the road.

Benches are mostly there in the parks or at the malls territories. If you have to wait for someone/something, you usually have no place to sit even, if you are outside the building.. But the Indians don’t come before time, most often (and in general, you will be lucky if they are not an hour late), therefore  the question of benches doesn’t seem to concern them much.

Normal parking space in India too is there mostly in residential complexes and malls (always paid, can be few floors underground parking because of lack of space).  Near to independent residential buildings, people just leave their cars outside on the streets, parking not accurately, sometimes taking up the half of the road with their cars.  But here it does not annoy anyone, because  traffic rules are not strict in general and they are very accustomed to such kind of things.  On the top of cars, especially at night, you can see sometimes stray dogs or monkeys as well.

As for addresses, everything in Delhi is very confusing and often even locals cannot find the place they need.  Cab drivers are also often confused, navigation systems as well don’t usually show many places accurately, unless it is famous places – then don’t worry.  And here no one thinks that they are obliged to know the city well, even the cab drivers aren’t considered unprofessional if they don’t know it.

In Delhi there are no street/road names in the address structure. The address is formed from the name of the area, block, sector, sometimes pocket.  In some areas, the numbering of sectors is logical, in the order, but in some it is in completely incomprehensible way.  And because of this you can spend another 10-20 minutes roaming around trying to find your exact required location already after GPS has shown that you have reached, asking everyone but getting different answers (because in Indian understanding not to answer is more rude than to send you in wrong direction). And it’s not just with me, means not because I am foreigner, it happens with everyone here. If you are in cab, this will, of course, increase your bill but it is still better not to leave your cab before you make sure you have finally reached your place (even if the driver says that it’s alright) since if you try finding it walking, it can take much more time and be more complicated and confusing for you. 

In other cities of India the addresses can be formed a different way, for example, there are road names in Calcutta.

There are also the kind of areas in Delhi which called “extensions”. It’s the areas with very narrow and confusing streets, once you get there, it feels like a labyrinth, from which only someone who lives there knows the way out. The cars often can’t go inside of many of such streets, some streets are too narrow even for rickshaws. And people stare at foreigners much more there (how and why Indians stare, you can read Here).

Also in India, there all sorts of markets and street vendors with very cheap products are very common, which take up a lot of street space as well. And I can’t say that Delhi has very narrow roads but all these challenges and slow walking on the road pedestrians create a lot of difficulties for driving here.

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