Everything went smoothly through customs, with only minor hiccups. As we stepped outside, it appeared dark and foggy. We were to discover that the thick fog was actually smog. New Delhi has the dubious honor of being ranked #1 as the WORLD’S most polluted city.
Even though we were traveling as a group being met by representatives from the local Rotary Club, just the walk from the exit to our waiting bus opened us to the encounter with those who “insisted” on helping us with our bags. We had to be equally insistent that we could handle it without help. Unfortunately, I had not yet supplied my pockets with tip money. The only dollars I had were large denominations and the rupees I had were 500 notes, which amounts to about $9. We managed to get to the bus with only minor confusion, standing beneath a street lamp shining diffusely through the smog giving everything a yellowish brown glow.
It now about 5 am, a half hour or so from sunrise. We were told to expect about a five hour drive, first due south to Agra, then due east to Firozabad.
Sunrise brightened the easterly haze. But only as the sun rose higher above the horizon could you see it: a stark red orb through the murky smog. I was accustomed to seeing the sun with such appearance through eclipse glasses or a solar telescope. Here the smog itself provided the filtering medium.
Visibility was only out about fifty yards on either side of the bus, as we rolled by open fields with occasional structures. We saw a number of brick factories with tall active smokestacks.
As we proceeded south toward Agra, visibility improved, but only slightly, which means that the Delhi-Agra smog is one system with a radiant reach of at least 100 miles.
I remember the first time I visited Los Angeles in 1980. The smog was so bad, my eyes streamed with tears and my latent childhood asthma kicked in, coughing like crazy. I never thought I would actually choose to live there and raise a family. Fortunately L.A. air is a lot cleaner now than it was. Governmental clean air policy worked the wonder.
Mid-morning we reached Hotel Parador and we were greeted with great fanfare by Rotarians bearing flowers.