So something I have discovered about India, beyond the obvious other things.
It is a place of huge contradictions.
I was riding a bus back from Delhi (a non-air conditioned bus at that, talk about grossly and disgustingly hot, dirty, sweatiness…) and was watching the landscape roll by. One of the first things evident in India, beyond heat and noise, is the incredible amount of poverty. About 23% of the population of India lives below the poverty line, at about 100 Rupees a day (around $2.15). And believe me – Rs. 100 does not go very far here – clean water costs Rs. 15 a liter and a half kilo of rice is about Rs. 70. It is difficult to imagine a meal for an entire family – just one meal – on that budget. And it isn’t hidden or subtle – a taxi from the Delhi airport passes through blocks filled with corrugated metal houses covered in colorful tarps that are stolen from stores and construction sites.
This bus ride was through some small villages and towns, many with crumbling brick buildings or actual thatched huts – and there was one village that we passed that was about the size of maybe half a football field, falling apart, and covered with mud and filled with people sleeping in the shade of a tarp to keep out of the blistering sun. Above the main market (a mere wooden table with a tarp and a few chairs filled with emaciated men and women) was a sign for an investment company, a non-Indian company, that showed a women being driven in a luxury car and looking at skyscrapers in the distance. It was captioned – “Building a New India”.
Another, a few kilometers up the road, with no visible town or village in sight, a man was herding cows under a sign advertising the announcement of a brand new mall and multiplex to be developed on the site. The man had to avoid the deep holes and concrete pillars that were already crumbling, the site began years ago and has not progressed.
Alcohol advertisements are built on huge signs next to Sikh temples, and half dressed women sell makeup and perfume while the women below walk with their heads and faces covered by veils.
It is difficult to see these attempts or symbols of Indian progress – especially that of the Indian elite in contrast against the impoverished. It seems almost as if India wants to prove its arrival into the world market as a major contender, where in reality it is only the wealthy that progress. There is so much work to be done here. So much that needs to change in order to move forward.
Maybe, just maybe, I can work to make a difference here. It breaks my heart to think that I might not have an effect in my 10 weeks here – I will try everything I can to.