Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A couple thoughts that have been brewing in India

1. Where are all the women? I have had one interaction with an Indian woman that went beyond a couple of words, and that was at the meditation center in Ladakh. Not that they're never around, but they're always cooking or something, and never interacting with travelers. It's too bad!

2. Everyone's life is so hard. I mean, of course, right? But I'm not just talking about the one-armed beggar or the ostracized widow. Everyone! Everyone's life! You go down the road and there are people literally breaking rocks! Cycle-rickshaw guys pounding it all day in million-degree heat! Construction guys, cooks, army guys just sweating all day, making pennies! And then you take a bus and it breaks down, and some guys fix it. Meanwhile someone else is huddling over a fried snack cart, making 10 rupees at a time. Everyone's life is so hard!

3. Some people just want to get out. Signs advertise "New Zealand study visa", "Make it to Canada in 6-10 months". Some people I talk to say that they really want to go to the US, just to study, or to work. Working is best; they can send home so much money. I say this with the utmost respect for India: I can't blame them (see thought #2).


  1. Very insightful Dan. Apart from working so hard they also have short life spans- which makes sense. At least they don't have to endure it for a very long time. Also, you can now appreciate when slavery was abolished, the British recognized this nature and hired Indians as 'Indentured Labourers' to work the abandoned sugar, coffee and cocoa plantations of the West Indies, South America and other areas. The Brits lured them with the promise of Land, money and a better life. Life was rough back them for immigrants and many of them did not survive the journey. I really appreciated your sincere thoughts here. Thanks

  2. Right. Same as the slavery->indentured servitude->freedom trend in the US, I guess. But in a lot of these cases, "freedom" is a sticky issue, because if you're super super poor and you have to carry bricks all day just to be able to eat at night, are you really "free"? So I guess it's more like slavery->indentured servitude->poverty->freedom, where I guess most of the US is actually free, but a lot of India is still technically free but poor?

    Either way: it seems very sad! I don't want to wring my hands too much, because:
    - how can we actually say anything about other people's lives, particularly things like "their life must be so hard"? Maybe we're right, but it smacks of paternalism (if that's the right word)
    - we all do our part to make the world a better place and we can't solve everything

    but the fact remains that it makes me feel sad to see so many people living such hard lives all the time.

  3. Yes, it does. Freedom v/s Poverty ... My Great Grandfather came on one of those boats from India to Trinidad and left his family behind. He lived in a mud hut the he himself built, and when his 'contract' was finished he was not allowed to return to India. He started a new family in Trinidad and here I am (he died young leaving his kids as orphans). My dad was able to trace the original family in India and has visited them twice.Seeing their poverty, how hard they work, and seemingly still live the same way they did 150 years ago, I can truly say that I am grateful my great grand dad took that chance. If not for him I would not have the life and opportunities I have now. Appreciate your lack of stoicism! Perhaps we'll chat more when you return.