100 Days in India Project

Place Lag. A night market in the streets of New Delhi.

57/ 100 Place Lag

I read a book recently called Skyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker. He is a pilot and the book is all about his aviation experiences and about the actual science behind flying too. I loved it, but then I have a real fascination for engineering and would have loved to have been a pilot if it weren’t for the fact that my eyesight is terrible and I can get motion sickness on a swivelling chair. In his book he talks a lot about a phenomenon called Place Lag.

Anyone who has flown long distances longitudinally around the Earth will have experienced jet lag. Your circadian rhythms cannot keep pace with the time differences and you want to be asleep when you should be awake, and vice versa. It’s miserable. Place Lag is similar but, I think, much more enjoyable. It is an idea that modern technology can enable us to travel so fast that you can leave behind your own country and arrive in one so very different just a few hours later. Your body has to completely adjust to an environment that is radically different from the one it is used to. India is a great example of this.

On our second trip to India, in 2019, we left Glasgow airport in a January snowstorm, very early on a dark and miserable winter morning. To get there from our house we drove along deserted main roads, there were no animals to be seen, there was no noise, no street vendors, no car horns. It was all very mundane, but it’s what we are used to. 14 hours or so later we landed in Delhi and were instantly swept along in a wave of cultural differences.

There were cows and monkeys hanging about, causing mischief in the airport car park. There were rows of steaming and fragrant chai stalls and street food vendors lining the roads into the city centre. The weather was humid and warm and the air smelled of a mixture of beautiful flowers and toxic car fumes. Aside from visiting places like the Arctic I don’t think there are many places where you can experience such a shift in a relatively short time.

The black and white photograph below was taken just a day or so before we flew out from Glasgow. The main photograph was the very first picture I took in Delhi an hour after arriving there. One excites me far more than the other and I am still in complete awe of the fact that it is possible to travel to two wildly different places in just one day.

A cold and foggy winter morning at Glasgow Botanical Gardens.