Amazing Race 13, episode 6: Delhi, India is hard work

After a few lovely shots of Bayon Temple the teams were off in The Amazing Race 13, episode 6 to Delhi, India–my old stomping ground.

Although all teams scored the same flight from Siem Reap, Cambodia, the setting of episode 5, once they hit the airport in Delhi, the order in which each team left the temple was irrelevant. Ah, yes, as they dashed through the airport, there were the familar rows of uncomfortable chairs just outside customs in the main waiting area of the building.

Nick’s predictions of “heat, confusion, and crowds” was exactly right. Delhi is that and more. Nick could have thrown in cows, cows and more cows for a more accurate picture. I was looking for an elephant, and later on in the episode–bingo.

Travel Tips:

  • Use the Internet at the airport to help you locate where you need to go at your destination.
  • Have a taxi driver wait for you when you are making a stop. It can save time later.
  • Ditch the taxi driver for another one if you continue to get lost, no matter if your driver is a nice person.
  • Use terms of endearment with your traveling partner like “Babe” to help diffuse tense situations.
  • If you’re female, don’t wear shorts and spaghetti strap tank tops in India. They’re culturally insensitive.

Cultural highlights and recap: First stop was the Moonlight Motors, a drive into downtown Delhi that made the Andrew & Dan team notice that, compared to India, “Cambodia was child’s play.” As the traffic choked the streets, hands flapped to create a breeze in the stifling heat.

The massive amounts of vehicles, cows and people that barely streaming forward gave Tina the idea that they had landed in Delhi at the wrong time for easy-going travel. How true.

Although traffic in Delhi can be overwhelming, there are hours when it’s not that bad. However, with their rush hour arrival time, I bet they were settled into their taxis by 5:30 or 6:00 p.m., one of the worst hours for going anywhere.

Getting to Moonlight Motors wasn’t easy for Terrence & Sarah, Kelly & Christy or Tina & Ken. Due to no fault of theirs, their taxi drivers had no idea where to go. Tina & Ken were still going in circles while Nick, Andrew & Dan, and Dallas & Toni were finishing their first task–painting the bottom half of auto-rickshaw taxis green.

There’s a movement in India to convert auto-rickshaw taxis’ engines so that they will run on CNG (compressed natural gas), a fuel that is more environmentally friendly. Taxis that have been switched are painted green at the bottom like the one in the photo taken by Avinash Meetoo. The top half remains yellow. The effort is working and air quality is gradually improving.

While the first three teams arrived at the taxi park when it was still daylight, the last three arrived after dark, an indication of just how long they were lost.

Painting the auto-rickshaw involved covering the parts not to be painted with newspaper, donning a paint mask and using a spray can to evenly spray on the paint–all arduous tasks that are exacerbated under pressure. If there are any indications that one should NOT direct the actions of the person who is your traveling companion, this segment was it.

The more Terrence and Tina cajoled and directed Sarah and Ken to paint faster and do the task a certain way, the more the two painters became frustrated. Ken stayed silent, but Sarah told Terrence several times to, in essence, “back off Babe.” The term of endearment kept her from going off her rocker, I imagine.

Andrew finished first, much to this team’s glee, but their lead was lost when they couldn’t find a taxi right away. That’s Delhi for you. Taxis, although plentiful at times, can be evasive when most needed.

Tina & Ken did the smart thing and told their driver to stay, however, their driver had no better sense of direction after Ken finished painting his taxi then he did before. Hopelessly lost, they finally ditched him for another driver.

Once the taxis were converted to green, the teams headed to the colonial style Ambassador Hotel to find the guard in the garden who held their clues with the choice of their Roadblock tasks, two more indications of how labor intensive India is. Pick a job, any job, and you’ll find someone doing it by hand.

The Roadblock four of the teams chose, Launder Clothes where the teams headed by taxi to dhobi ghat, a communal area where laundry workers called dhobis wash, dry and iron clothing in order to make a living. The irons are the old fashioned kind filled with hot coals.

As a cultural note, in India it is very common for people to hire a dhobi to do laundry, even people with a modest income. When we lived in Delhi, our dhobi did our laundry twice a week, although there was a regular laundry room with washers and dryers where we lived. Hiring people to do household tasks is one way to keep the Indian economy flowing.

Each team had to iron 20 articles of clothing that ranged from shirts to pants. Once all items passed inspection by the real female dhobis who supervised their work, the teams were handed their clues that led them to the Pit Stop.

The dhobi section was where the contrast between Western dress and traditional Indian dress for women was most apparent. The Indian women looked elegant and stately, even though they were traditional laborers. This photo by Meanest Woman is typical. The American women, except for Toni who consistently wears a T-shirt, are dressed totally inappropriately for Indian sensibilities of what is considered decent attire.

I kept thinking, Starr, Starr, Starr, I don’t care if you’re hot, put your shirt back on. Christy and Kelly have long ago lost a sense of where they are in the world and are wearing shorts. Even Andrew & Dan commented on their cultural gaffe. I’m not saying that these are decent women, they are clueless though when it comes to appropriate dress.

The other Roadblock, “Launder Money” lead to a fairly accurate excursion into an Indian wedding and the difficulty of finding correct change. The teams who picked this one had a complicated task of acquiring the right number of rupee notes in the right denominations in order to make a traditional groom’s necklace. The next step was to find a groom to give the necklace to.

The elephant in this episode was outside the wedding hall. It’s common for a groom to come riding to a wedding on an elephant. Horses are also used. Also present were horn playing and throngs of dancing people. The noise can be overwhelming, but the weddings I’ve been to are not this crowded. I bet this was a setting designed specifically for The Amazing Race. The elements were there though, including the dais where the bride and groom sits and what they wore.

What was missing from the Amazing Race scene were the tables laden with wonderful food.

Unlike traditional, typical American weddings, in a traditional Indian wedding, the bride and groom don’t get down on the dance floor with the guests, but sit at the edge overseeing the festivities. Both team Sarah & Terrence and Ken and Tina had a hard time locating the groom because the kept looking in the center of the crowd. Finally they found him.

(In this photo by Dahon, the groom is wearing a flower garland. He is waiting for the bride to show up. When she does, she’ll sit where the child is.)

While these two teams were searching for their groom, poor Andrew & Dan’s life as frat boys were haunting them. They had a heck of a time ironing. The dhobi wallah overseeing their efforts shook her head, almost woefully, but would not let up until their pile was perfect. A gust of wind blew half their clothes to the ground which didn’t help. Oh, I felt bad.

As the end came near with Ken & Tina, yet having another problem finding a taxi and getting chased by dogs, and Andrew & Dan finally finishing their last shirt, the suspense built as Phil waited for them at the Pit Stop at the Baha’i House the world headquarters of the Baha’i faith. Andrew & Dan came dashing in 5th place leaving Tina & Ken to pull up the rear.

Who won this round? Nick and Starr–again. Their lack of bickering and focus helps. Plus, I think they are used to winning. They’re wired to win. I still don’t want them to win. They are not underdogs enough for me.

What did they win? An electric car each. As Phil off-handedly pointed out, Delhi is certainly an indication that the world needs clean air.

Who was eliminated? NO ONE!

After how hard Andrew & Dan ironed, but not all that well, and how many times Tina & Don got lost because of their bum luck with taxi drivers, I would have been so sad if one of these teams was eliminated. This ending was one to tug at heartstrings.

Andrew & Dan were over the top, whooping it up joyous, and Ken was tearful, making the connection between the need for a comeback to win the Amazing Race, and a need for a boost to save his and Tina’s marriage. As he sat tearful, struggling to talk Tina gave him a tender rub on his cheek.

For the life of me, I can’t quite figure how why the two of them don’t seem to think they get along. Have they paid much attention to other married couples who are traveling together?

For their last place standing, they face a Speed Bump next week, a task only Tina & Ken have to do before catching up with the other teams.

I wondered why there wasn’t a shot of the Baha’i Temple. It’s shaped like a lotus flower and quite lovely.