Namaskaram (India, Day 2)

I’m in India.  I guess I could just start there.  Sitting on the balcony patio of my boyfriend’s uncle’s porch, surrounded by lush palms, tropical flowers, and Queen of the Night blossoms, who’s nightly scent still lingers sweetly in the morning air.  Mooti has brought me coffee (getting used to servants is quite an unusual experience) and I’m here digesting my excessively large breakfast because uncle says I haven’t eaten quite enough.  Idly (little moon shaped rice patties), Guava fruit, Masala Dosa (similar to a pancake, wrapped in onions and spices), Coconut Chutney, Papadum, Pomegranate, and a lentil rice stew who’s twenty letter name I’ll never begin to remember.

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(Adam’s Uncle and myself)

This is a calm moment, though.  They’re not all like this, certainly, because the population of this country stretches far beyond any you have seen.  Yesterday, we went to Mysore (now called Mysuru, as India is trying to reclaim its national pride and take back the names of their cities).  Uncle put us on the 6:30 AM bus that didn’t leave until 7 because India works on its own system of time.  The drive was an experience in and of itself.  You pass by palaces nestled in amongst the slums, massive crowds of people sorting through the fabrics, the vibrant silks and tapestries.  You pass by children waiting for the bus, their newly pressed uniforms a stark contrast to the shanty-looking towns behind them.  It’s sad—but promising.

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(Adam and myself at the temples)

I didn’t cry though.  My boyfriend said I would—but I hadn’t yet.  I hadn’t until the bus took its first stop.  We sat along a concrete bench and watched the street dogs (the population of which matches the people) run up and down along the road.  They all look alike—years of cross breeding has created a standard dog that looks almost like a dingo, with pointed ears, sleek bodies, and slim tails.  One ran by with a limp, it’s paw broken at the end, struggling to keep up with the rest.  That was it.  That did me in.  It wasn’t the dog exactly, as much as it was the realization that I am from a country with infrastructure that protects the people.  Despite the political issues we have in the United States, our government is primarily there to protect us, to better us, and to enrich our lives.

But in India, the garbage gathers in the riverbeds and medians of highways.  Sometimes it is burning in small piles beside the road.  There are no garbage trucks.  There is no system of trash collection.  When we wanted to leave a palace, the guard told us to walk the long way round.  When we asked if we could leave from the front, he held out his palm for Rupees, asking for a bribe.  There aren’t street cleaners to clean the roads.  You pay someone a quarter to come along with a hand tied broom and sweep it for you, but that is only if you can afford to do so.  There are no jobs, because there are no public works, but only private industries.  And so people stand around in large groups, which is begging for trouble.  The government could establish a public works, to employ the thousands of people to do the thousands of jobs that need doing, but that requires funding.  And so, the streets are left unpaved, the waters left polluted, and the roads left gathering stray bits of trash.

I spoke with a lot of Westerners before I left.  People who said that I would love the energy here—that it is so peaceful and enlightening and the Hindu religion just creates a zen that is illuminating.  But I think they were hitting the green stuff a little too hard.  Maybe a little too much yoga, and not enough looking around.  Because while India is stunningly beautiful, with the sarees and the vivid colors and the wandering cows painted in holy powder, it is also immensely sad.  I think they dress it up with color to make it seem less so, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t see the sadness in it all.  I am looking so very forward to the rest of this adventure.  But I will not delude myself into thinking that the beauty of vibrant temples and lush jungles can overwrite the faces of the hungry children.  Immersing yourself into culture means all of it.  And while I was, at the first, caught a little off guard—I am excited for what the next days will bring me.

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As I left one temple, some children ran up to me for a photo.  One little girl, bright face blossoming, reached out, grabbed onto my hands, and held them up in prayer.  “I’m going to teach you a Kerala word,” she said, proudly, bravely, with a darling little smile.  “Namaskaram,” she said, and bowed her head, before running off giggling to join the rest.

 

(The Temple at Mysuru)

26 thoughts on “Namaskaram (India, Day 2)

  1. Wonderful and insightful. I can identify with your concern for the local poverty. I find it hard to enjoy a holiday in a country where the locals do not share my (Irish) standard of living. There is the counter argument that spending money in poor places helps the economy. Increasingly I am discovering the beauty hiding on my own doorstep.
    I look forward to your next Indian adventures! God speed!

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  2. So glad you are getting to explore India, Shayleene. Different land, different culture. All a learning experience. I traveled in S.America in the late 70s and had to learn to accept the poverty, which required more money than I had to fix. I bought crafts and food rather than dole out money to beggars. It helps to focus on the small gifts and the hearts of the people. Strip away the money and we are all similar. Love and joy are free after all. Looking forward to hearing more of your adventures, peace!

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  3. You need to learn to see the beauty . After travelling 18 countries , seen lots of poverty in the streets of Paris / Munich , but did not highlight them . You have seen only a minor fraction of a very large country , I am sure there are differences in your country too between some rich & not so rich places . Would you like if anyone Visiting there start highlighting that ? Widen your heart , you will see wonders in this land …mountains , rivers, sea, deserts, forests , temples , churches , mosques , gurudwara ( Sikh temple) , Buddhist monasteries … Colors , food , attirés and what not you can see in this vast land ..

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    1. I understand what you are saying…but I really think it’s vital that we don’t delude ourselves and pretend like there isn’t poverty. Of course there are beautiful things here, and beautiful people. I am in awe of so much I have seen. But I won’t pretend that there isn’t an immense amount of poverty—that’s how poverty continues to exist, because we continue ignoring the fact that there is a problem. I can find the beauty beside the sadness. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive. That being said, I do agree and appreciate your insight. Be well.

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      1. No one is ignoring that . But then you must highlight the immeasurable wealth present here as well , but you are not . So , I doubt your insight here. It is a negative publicity showing few streets of a country without knowing 99% of it . You are talking about worlds 6th largest economy , 7th largest nuclear power, 4th biggest army , 4th largest natural energy resource . Go back to 1800, see the rate of gbp , it is half of an Indian currency in value . It is western world who came here and looted the wealth from here . So , don’t talk about poverty , instead read history and geography and try to see rest 99% of the country . Otherwise , no one said you have to come here and say bad things about the country ! I don’t think you are welcome for that .

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        1. I’m sorry, but I’m not quite understanding the point you’re making, and I don’t believe that you are understanding mine. Nothing I said was disrespectful to the people of India. The government, perhaps, but not the people. I spent the first leg of this journey staying in my boyfriend’s uncle’s house in Bangalore, discussing the culture, government, allocation of resources, so I think it’s fair to say I got a first hand account of how government functions. I appreciate your statistics, but those stats have no bearing on the population, only on the economy. Here are some others: 23.6 % of Indians live on less than a US 1.25 a day. In 2013, India’s population accounted for the largest number of people living below the poverty line. 30% of the population lives on beneath 1.90 a day.
          For perspective, Nigeria has the second largest number of people living below the poverty line, and India is still 2.5 times greater than that. To reiterate, India has two and a half times more people living below the poverty line than the country with the second largest number of people in that same category. So, as for your point about economy, I am confused, because we can clearly say that economic income has had no bearing on the population as a whole. Yes, there is great disparity here, and while the poverty rate is declining, it still is nowhere near enough. It is on its way up, certainly, but we cannot ignore the fact that leadership affects gross economics. The government can make all the money in the world, but if it is not allocating resources responsibly and only the private industries are benefiting, then that directly affects the well being of its people.
          The people here are beautiful. Their religion is beautiful, their culture is beautiful. I believe that their government could do better by them. And, from my conversations with many native Indians, I think they would say the same. “That’s just how it is,” should never be an answer someone feels they have to give.

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  4. Welcome to India! I am so impressed by your observations and narratives. It’s a real irony that despite being one of the emerging superpowers in the world, we still have a long way to go when it comes to vital socio economic indicators. We are still far behind in comparison to other countries when it comes to health, nutrition, education and many other areas. India has had its own challanges, historically as well as in terms of demography and topography, but that cannot be an excuse to hide away from all the problems that the country faces today. We could have done better in last 70 years since independence, we could have set our priorities right and worked on them with a greater focus. Yet, there’s hope, and things are changing, gradually though.

    Thank you for your very honest narrative, I truly appreciate that. Hope you have a great time here and enjoy Indian hospitality and our rich cultural diversity. Do you have any plans of coming to Rajasthan, it would be a pleasure to meet you. I am based in Jaipur. 😊

    Cheers!🤗
    Chhaya

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    1. I do not have any plans of doing so, but as my boyfriend’s family is central to here, I am certain we will be back at some point. Thank you for your words—and yes, as you say, a lot of factors have played into the challenges here. But that doesn’t mean your country isn’t exquisitely beautiful in its own right. I have loved being here. Be safe and well. Thank you for your understanding. If I ever make it to Rajasthan, I’ll give you a shout. 💕🙏🏼

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