Tuesday, October 11, 2005

More Than One India

Kalyan Junction, India

I just awoke from a semi-restful slumber on our overnight train from Delhi to Mumbai (Bombay), and I figured it was time to bloginate. It's been over a week since I've put in a significant entry, so I think I'm do. I purchased a warm tea from one of the unavoidably numerous and vociferous chai-wallahs aboard the train for four rupees (10 cents) and rinsed my face off with some lukewarm train water. I'm ready.

India can be a difficult country. Our first port of call here was Delhi, which didn't exactly give a good first impression. It had all of the trappings of a third-world metropolis. There were ridiculously overcrowded streets with standing pools of excrement and ragged, crying, homeless children. Mangy stray animals roamed unchecked around the city, feeding off of piles of trash by the roadside. And some desperate citizens clung to foreigners like flies, willing to do anything (lie, cheat, steal...) to get a few rupees. All in all, not a very pleasant experience.
On the other hand, our next stop was Shimla, a quaint little town nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas of northern India. It felt like we had been transplanted to some Austrian village in the Andes. It was quiet, and relatively clean. Uniformed schoolchildren walked arm-in-arm along the streets, and roller-skated around the main square. A local volleyball contest drew a large crowd of well-behaved spectators. Even the bazaar was clean and sedate. A much different India greeted us there.

India in particular, and SE asia in general has made me rethink my stance on poverty and begging. Before, I just didn't want to deal with it. I figured that it wasn't really my responsibility to take care of these people. But, now, seeing how such a small amount of money, which basically means nothing to me, can mean everything to someone else... it makes you reconsider things.


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