Monday, February 04, 2008


There is no good way to sum up India. The only manageable way I can think to do this is through pictures. For the next couple of posts, I'm going to pick a few of the most telling, and say a few words about what I thought and felt over these last few weeks. In some ways, I'm still processing and somewhat reeling from it all.

When I glance over all my pictures, this is the one which draws my eyes over and over again. I want you to make it larger if your computer will let you and take a good look at it. It says so much to me.

The woman in the middle is the embodiment of the old India. She is just hanging out in the traditional pose many use for waiting, working in the fields, going to the bathroom. I imagine she was like that because it was the warmest, most comfortable way she could be while waiting for whatever she was waiting on. Her clothes, though old and dirty, are still made of the bright, flowing, modest fabric donned by most women. I wouldn't last 30 seconds in that position. There is no telling how many hours of her life she has spent that way.

Notice the relatively small trash pile behind her, with every bit of anything valuable picked out of it as a way of making a living for many people. There is a dead cow lying near the wall. At least it wasn't a dead person, which I also saw sprawled out on a sidewalk, but didn't have the time or the audacity to take a picture of.

Now, in defense of India, I'm not for sure the guy was dead. But judging by the contortion of his limbs, his disheveled clothing, and the blotchy color of his legs, it is a pretty safe guess. How long had he been there? How long would it be before someone removed his body? What does that say about how valuable a life is in India? How many more people are there just like him--dead, or nearly so--while the rest of the world rushes on?

Back to the picture.

Bicycles are everywhere. Cycle rickshaws are one of the cheapest forms transportation. It is the best way to see what all is around you. The bad thing is that it is also a great way for everyone to see you, especially if you are the rare white person. Instant entertainment for the whole community. Little wooden shops that sell all sorts of items or services are lining the streets, right next to gigantic brick or stone buildings that have been there for centuries. You can get a haircut, a pack of gum, a kilo of fruit, and a pirated movie probably on the same block. And at India prices with an American checking account, it is so tempting to not do it.