In an earlier post I touched on two very important subjects that I constantly come across here; beggars and the filth that is India. I hate to talk about my own country in such a fashion, but if it’s not talked about or if attention isn’t brought to it, then how can a change possibly occur? India has so much incredible art, food, monuments, history, and culture in general but it’s always surprising to me that the people of the country couldn’t care less about any of that. From my own experiences it seems to me that people here could care less about the foundation on which this country was built and instead are absorbing the culture of other nations. I understand that the economy is crucial to the political and obviously economic growth and stability of a country, but that does not mean that we can go on treating every other matter with less importance. I already described to you all in the last post about the smell of India. Shit, Urine and Sweat. Now I’m going to talk about the various ways in which people here contribute to all this.
Orange Dirt Road
Walking in the streets here requires careful steps. If you aren’t always aware of where you’re stepping, you’re more than likely to walk into a pothole, a puddle, garbage or shit. There are very few places on the road where you can stay looking in front of yourself and not have to worry what you’re going to fall into. There are no sidewalks, just entranceways to hotels or shops or broken pieces of concrete and wobbly bricks laid on top of dirt. So it’s much safer (relatively speaking) walking on the street itself where cars and bikes will honk at you if you’re in the way. The roads themselves are barely roads. Some parts have tar on them while most of it is literally the earth; orange mud with lots of little rocks. The parts of the road that actually has tar on it is cracked and broken with potholes covering it. I should just describe it as potholes with a sliver of road. Amongst the potholes you will find trash and filth laying all about because apparently the roads, sides of roads, bodies of water, or any patch of earth is a garbage can. I still don’t understand where all the garbage from people’s homes go. There are no garbage trucks that stop at each and every home on a Monday morning to collect. Nor are there those giant garbage bins behind businesses so they can dump what they need to either. All I see is people opening up packages, using what’s inside and throwing the litter right at their feet, like it’s a God given right, like the earth is made for them to use and abuse. I also keep witnessing people chewing “supari” which is a form of chewing tobacco, I believe, and spitting out the excess tobacco juices right in front of them. They don’t care whether someone is walking that way or even standing near the spot. There is no respect for anything or anyone. If you thought that was the worst of it, please let me indulge you further. I have seen men use sides of buildings, trees, bushes, roads and open fields as latrines. What is it about men that make them believe that just because they have a penis they can do whatever the hell they want? Does a penis give them a sense of entitlement and power of domination over everything and anyone else? I’m not trying to make judgements about the whole male species, but just from what I have observed here, that’s all that I’m getting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure women still do these things as well, but I have never witnessed with my own eyes a woman throwing a piece of garbage, or spitting in inopportune places, or making a wall, a tree, a road or a field her personal washroom. Regardless, the respect for the environment around themselves is what people lack around here They act like they don’t see what’s around them. The citizens of India have literally turned this country into a massive dump site yet if they “can’t see it, then it does not exist”.
There’s always been a debate of what human nature is; are we all naturally benevolent or competitive? Are we more prone to help those in need, or push them while they’re down to advance ourselves further? I cannot claim for sure one or the other, but I can describe what I’ve seen, felt and done in my lifetime. I’m sure every country has citizens who are extremely benevolent and those whose greed knows no boundaries but for some reason, the selfishness I’ve witnessed here is incomprehensible.
In an article I read earlier it quoted an Oxford study that measured that more than half of India’s population lives in poverty and also calculated that one third of all the poor in the world are in India (I’ll attach a link to the article at the end). I understand that when reading about these facts and statistics there is no personal connection. You may be able to envision the multitude of people living in impoverished conditions but if you have never seen it first hand, then there is no way you can possibly understand how impecunious their lives really are.
I’ll try my best to describe how unbearably sad and unfortunate things here can get.
Every which way you turn you will see a cluster of women, children, old and handicapped people sitting and waiting for someone to help them in some way. As I walked through the streets and markets, those who could would approach me closing their hands to gesture picking up food and then move them towards their mouths. Holding out their hands in desperation because they have no way to feed their children, much less themselves. Seeing the children was the worst. Hideously small for their age but their faces withered beyond their years. You can see the sorrow in their eyes, in the way they move, even in the way they beg. This is obviously not a life they asked for nor brought on themselves. This is not a life they deserved. This is not a life for anyone. People here are accustomed to the beggars and in some way I understand that they cannot stop and help each and every one of them, but sometimes the cruelty these under privileged are treated with is despicable. They are shouted at for begging, they are shouted at for being dirty, they are shouted at because they are too close to the food stands, but most of all they are shouted at for coming too close to the privileged. I ask myself: “what can be done for such a horde of people?” I don’t have a complete answer, I’m just one person and one person can’t change the world. I don’t have the power, the resources, the connections or the perfect ideas to make such a vast difference. I do know however that if we as a people can come together, to acknowledge the problem, to understand the problem, to realize that something major needs to be done, perhaps something will happen. But then I think, how can we even shed light on such a situation and gather enough people to do something about it? I mean in a country with more than 2 billion who see these things on a day to day basis they would find a way to do something about it. They would want to do something about it. I know that won’t happen. I have been told that begging has been turned into a business, where they are in a sense “pimped out” to make money and bring it back to the “pimp” who will then perhaps feed them or shelter them. But how can we justify that because it has become a business it’s ok? How can we justify the act of these beggars being pimped out in the first place? What will this all lead to in the future? Will these people keep begging for the rest of their lives? Will the beggars who are good at begging keep getting fed whereas those who may not be making as much money be left to their own devices? I still don’t know the logistics behind the begging game but nothing good can ever come out of that situation, except for the horrible people running it. I’m sure it is common knowledge about how the business of begging works, so how can a country that gave birth to someone like Gandhi, who taught about kindness and charity, not acknowledge such a heart-wrenching truth. How can they be so quick to turn their faces when they see a filthy woman wearing a sari that looks like it hasn’t been washed in years, holding a child snivelling on himself, clothed in scraps, with a bloated stomach and crying because he hasn’t been fed for days? How can they avert their eyes away from the handicapped man who sits on the ground covered in spit, urine and God knows what else. How can people live in their massive mansions when right outside their high walls and secured gates there are families living in straw and mud houses not having enough food to survive? How can politicians drive to work in their lavish cars and come to a stop light where children perform like circus monkeys in high traffic for a rupee here or there because they are the only ones who can work for their families? How can a country that has so much, care so little? How can a country that has such high ambitions on a world stage, not understand the basic element of compassion? How can it be that the reality and mindset of the general population is: “if we can’t see, then it must not exist”?
I know that this post is quite long, and I apologize if I lost any of you during the rant, but sometimes when I get caught up in imagining the state of things, my fingers just can’t stop.
Let me know if you have any thoughts, concerns or advice.