India has been described by friends who’ve traveled here before as a land of contrasts. They were not exaggerating. I’ve traveled to third-world countries before and seen cardboard shanties next to good hotels. However, it is the sheer volume of one over the other here that makes it so startling.
- On the 4-lane divided highway, our 30-person, air-conditioned coach shares the road with ox-, horse-, donkey-, man-, and camel-driven carts. Bicycle-powered rickshaws were joined by motorcycles, tractors, commercial trucks, passenger cars and Vespas. The 2 lanes in our direction were often splayed into 3, 4, or 5 lanes. In town, 3-wheeled, motorcycle-powered rickshaws called tut-tuts wove in between the bicycles. I even saw people walking down the middle of the street, and a few times cars or motorcycles driving on the shoulder opposite traffic.
- We saw one Vespa carrying a family of five: a 4-year-old in the front, followed by the father driver, a young man, and mother with baby side straddling on back. None were hanging on for dear life.
- Bright orange, red, and blue sari-wearing women working on construction sites along the men.
- Outside ornate marble-enlayed tombs sits beggars or “restaurants” selling food cooked on an open fire burning on the roadside.
- Beautiful children playing outside their rubble-strewn yard. Smiles and waves as we pass by even from those not interested in selling us anything.
- Rubbish piled high fronting a brown, barren lot, beneath a sign that requested “Keep India clean and green.”
- Artisans sitting for hours on the floor working on minute chips of semi-precious stones inlaying intricate patterns in white translucent marble for table tops and other souvenirs. The pieces they sand to shape then embed in the marble are the size of ants. The work is stunning. They are practicing a dying art, with only about 2000 of them left in India. They are probably paid a few dollars a day.
- We are in the largest tech-support country in the world, yet the Internet works intermittently at our 4-star hotel in the center of town. I have not been able to get my email for 3 days as each time I try it is down.
We are noticing and working to notice the beauty and happiness among the poverty. It isn’t easy to not feel sad or sorry for the residents nor have judgments about their lifestyle. Our guide helped us have perspective: “India is our mother. We love our mother, even though parts of her may be ugly. We focus on her beauty and we hope you will learn to see her as we do and learn to lover her, too.”
(The pic of this handsome gentleman is our doorman at our first hotel. I think I’ll collect doormen around the country — at least pics of them!)