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Smog and out of money: A Chinese journo’s cheeky look at Delhi blues

world Updated: Nov 15, 2016 21:47 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Chinese journalist

A thick layer of smog covers Connaught Place, the heart of New Delhi, on Saturday, November 5, 2016(AP)

A Chinese journalist’s cheeky account of her experiences in New Delhi with smog and the withdrawal of currency notes has become very popular among users of China’s online platforms.

Cao Ling’s piece in Chinese, irreverently titled “Incredible India: Penniless overnight in the curry-flavoured smog”, was read on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, and the WeChat mobile phone app, thousands of times. 

She was part of a delegation that travelled to the Indian capital earlier this month to participate in a tobacco control seminar. 

“As expected, we were welcomed by much heavier smog in Delhi, with the smell of metal and something burnt. Soon we felt our throat burning, and pricking pain in our eyes. We joked the Indian smog was curry-flavoured. Afterwards we got to know we came into the heaviest smog in Delhi in 17 years,” she wrote in an article for a magazine after returning 

The abolition of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes to control corruption hit Cao and fellow delegates the day they hired a car to visit the Taj Mahal in Agra. Cao said it was tour guide Mohammad who helped them buy tickets at the monument. 

“We finally came up with the idea to change Rs 800 with our Rs 1000 in a souvenir shop, and bought three tickets with Rs 1500. At the end of the trip, we gave Mohammad quite a lot of tip money.” 

Cao also described buildings lost in the heavy haze and how traffic crawled in Delhi. 

“Many delegates asked us if Beijing was like that. We shook our heads and explained repeatedly that Beijing was much better, the air pollution in Delhi had been at least two times that in Beijing. We felt such an honour to have come into such heavy smog in the great city of smog,” she wrote. 

Cao was correct. Beijing’s air has been better lately, with Greenpeace telling Hindustan Times recently that the city’s pollution had been reduced by 30% in 2014 and 2015. The day Cao reached New Delhi, Beijing’s pollution count was over 300 – it was still better than the Indian capital. 

“But what we did not expect was more fantastic events were waiting for us,” Cao then wrote. 

“The headlines of Hindustan Times had been all on the smog the other day, and these days they’re all about the abolishing (of the currencies). On the way to downtown Delhi, we witnessed countless banks and ATMs with long queues, some disorderly while some in good order,” she added. 

“The meeting ended on Saturday. We took the night flight to Beijing. We joked that journalists chase after news while we kept bumping into news. Bye, Delhi, guess what Indians would go through in the future.”