When something like what happened in Mumbai happens, you can’t help but wonder what you’d do if it happened to you. Since this blog is meant to archive knowledge useful to those living in or moving to Delhi, I think it’s prudent, if not a little bit boring, to post what we’ve learned about emergencies in Delhi.

The Delhi blasts a few months ago occurred early on a Saturday evening. Within hours, the media was screaming that security was being beefed up all over the city. We didn’t see any security until the next day, though, when our autorickshaw passed the GK I market, the site of one of the bombs. There we saw a couple cops idly manning a roadblock, slowing cars just enough to create a jam but not enough to actually inspect passengers (as if terrorists wear Al Qaeda lapel pins or drive carrying dynamite on their laps), if the cops had even been looking, which they weren’t.

The only interaction we’ve ever had with a cop in India (aside from the ones who regularly commandeer our autorickshaws for lifts to their next point on patrol, and the one who arbitrarily singled out my taxi driver to scream at, refusing to let us go down the road while other cars passed unmolested, advancing menacingly, fingering his beating stick, preparing to unleash unnecessary justice until he saw my white face cowering in the back seat and decided that maybe we weren’t doing anything wrong after all) was the cop who shook us down for a 400 Rupee bribe in the Jahanpanah City Forest near GK II. So after Mumbai, I realized I had no idea how to find a cop if I actually needed one.

I posed the question to YuniNet, a Delhi-centric Yahoo group. Most readers pointed out that you can call 100, India’s equivalent of 911, although some reported language issues for non-Hindi speakers. However, if you babble enough key words (“Hauz Khas” “American” “accident” “chainsaw-wielding zombie”), you could probably rouse the local cop to commandeer an autorickshaw over to your house to see what’s up.

Other advice included walking to your local police stand, making friends with the cops, and getting their number in case you need it. I wouldn’t do that, however; as one respondent put it, “We would rather call our embassy or someone known to us who knows someone in police. We don’t trust the police in Delhi.” I think you’re probably better off if the local cops don’t know where you live.

For the embassy perspective, I emailed Lynn, an embassy staffer I met a few weeks ago. She’s the one who gets the call when a gora gets run over by the Blueline. Her advice:

“The best thing to do, if possible, is file a police complaint or First Information Report (FIR). Once you do that, call us and we will follow up with the police to make sure that they do whatever is needed in the situation. The police will not take our call as seriously if the involved party hasn’t complained. That being said, we want to hear about whatever is happening regardless of whether a complaint has been lodged.
“We always want to know if our citizens have emergencies; sometimes we can move things along or make suggestions.

“In an emergency, you can call the main Embassy number: (011) 2419-8000. During the day you would ask for American Citizens Services; off hours, ask for the duty officer.”

So what about medical emergencies? Back in February, Jenny got sick, resulting in two midnight trips to the emergency room. The first night I flagged down an autorickshaw while Jenny lay shivering on the sidewalk. I told him the name of the private hospital, which he misunderstood to mean the government hospital; complications from that bit of malpractice were exactly why we went to the hospital the second night.

That second night, we called the private hospital’s ambulance service. They came promptly, but the dispatcher had given them the wrong house number; I finally found them frantically running around the neighborhood looking for us.

The best advice in a medical emergency is probably to arrange your own transportation, especially if you don’t want to wait for the ambulance to fight traffic all the way to your house; but make sure you know exactly where you want to go. You should certainly scout out a doctor and a good hospital BEFORE you get sick. I wish we had.

7 responses to “emergencies

  1. I really wish nothing more like this happens in Delhi, but that would be wishful thinking.
    India being a large and chaotic country- it is impossible to station cops at every nook and corner.
    In fact if one has to deter terrorism at that level, the fight is already lost- proper intel and pre-emption is what’s needed.
    Stay safe, don’t venture out late at night alone, or without local friends, drive with eyes in the back of your head – and you’ll be fine!

    PS – I think you’ve almost completed a year in Delhi haven’t you? Happy anniversary!

  2. Probably good advice for anyone living anywhere, really. I cut my hand open and had no way to get to the ER, but ended up driving myself. It seemed dumb to call an ambulance.

    But, I immediately thought of you guys when the Mumbai stuff happened. I guess it’s exotic and interesting to live over there, but some days, it’s just really dangerous.

  3. Right now the world itself is a dangerous place to live in . But with developing nations its more difficult, you have to fend for yourself. It’s better to be alert.

  4. These are useful tips, especially for goras like you!

    For medical emergencies, best indeed to go to a hospital yourself.
    The points about cops may be a bit exaggerated though. 100 is supposed to respond rather promptly, and they have their own cars most of the time.

  5. 1. In a medical emergency if you have time, def ask a neighbor for help which is the most logical thing to do in des! They are locals who know stuff you may not. Most likely the neighbor will come with you or at least can point you to the right place. A private hospital is best and each hospital will have a specialty unit like bone, burns, infants etc which may be most suitable.

    2. If a crime or theft occurs, then a police report has to be lodged- even if the crime is not solved the insurance co/embassy will need a copy of the report to do their work. The report is called a FIR and the cops sometimes may refuse to be prompt with even giving you a copy.

    3. Making friends with police is a bad idea for two reasons , first it is an insulting quid pro quo. Second the cops in all countries are mostly nice but never make for good friends – something about the nature of their jobs tend to draw sociopaths to the field.

    4. Have the phone number of your local US entity and use it if you need help. Just a word that the US is involved does wonders with the Indian machinery, even if it costs you a little more. If you can’t get to the US consulate , try the Canadians.
    I say all this as an Indian American and have never needed to put these tips to use.

  6. I bet you Banty would help you in a pinch for an emergency, he is really sweet.

  7. i think the cop part is a bit exaggerated.
    see there are 2 types of police, one is traffic police and the other is normal delhi police. traffic police is the one you encounter on roads and that harass the auto drivers. but in case of emergency do call 100 and they understand English. from my personal experience i can tell you that they will arrive within 10 to 15 minutes. also delhi police’s vehicles double up as ambulances, its a less known fact that police vehicles transport more people to hospitals than ambulances in delhi. the new MUV’s of delhi police even have fold-able stretchers in them.

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