Sunday, 30 August 2009
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
Today, we spent the day in Bath. We went to the Jane Austin museum (the boys only barely tolerated this), and then we frolicked in the beautiful lush parks of Bath. The new addition to our little group is Naz, Avanti's boyfriend. It was a merry little bunch.
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Saturday, 15 August 2009
Friday, 14 August 2009
Sunday, 9 August 2009
I haven’t written much about the poverty in this country. I suppose for me, the pain of it all is still too near. Pondicherry is relatively well off for an Indian town. Still, life is hard for most people here, as it is everywhere in India. I have spent time in other developing countries – the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia – but nothing compares to the poverty in India.
For the most part, I have managed to compartmentalize my emotions, so that the constant drain of observing suffering doesn’t constantly overwhelm me. Sometimes, however, it is impossible not to feel really wretched about the state of the world – about the unfairness of it all. I came to India after extended stays in Berkeley and London, and the drastic disparity between the quality of life in these places really hit home. Even middle class people here have few possessions and eat simply; the masses of the poor walk around in rags and eat a single meal a day that consists mostly of rice. How different this is from back home, where most families throw away so much food every day, because they have overestimated their needs. Or where children clamor for more pocket money to buy the latest cell phone. Children here are so happy when their parents can afford money for their lunch or school uniform.
We always hear about India’s booming economy, and I believe that the quality of life has improved significantly over the last couple of years. However, the reality is that most people here, even in the middle classes, live in very basic conditions. I hope that the economic developments will continue to bring in wealth, but the recent global recession is definitely going to set things back.
Around my house, I am always a little saddened by the sight of the rickshaw drivers. Now that auto-rickshaws dominate the streets, there is no longer much need for the slow, manually driven pedi-cabs. As a result, it is mostly older, poorer men that drive manual rickshaws. It is such hard work for them. They tend to be very thin and as such it is quite a burden to push the weight of another person in their rickshaw. They earn significantly less than the auto-rickshaw drivers per ride, and fewer people use their services, because it is a much slower ride. Many of these auto-rickshaw drivers live on the street with their wives and children. It is a pitiful sight.
I really don’t know what to do about it. A couple of times I gave the wife of a rickshaw driver a hundred rupees, which is a huge amount of money by their standards. But now, every time I pass, she desperately asks for more money. While I would love to constantly give her more, part of me knows full well that creating a relationship of dependence is not the solution. But there just doesn’t seem like that much else to do.
What makes everything worse is that alcohol is very cheap in Pondicherry. As a result, men that work in really difficult professions often turn to the bottle. This leads to a lot of domestic violence. Sometimes, men that are perfectly strong and healthy degenerate completely because of their alcoholism. It is self-destructive, self-defeating behavior. A lot of wealthy people use this as an excuse not to give poor people money. I understand their logic, but I also wonder if I were living under such difficult conditions, whether I may not turn to some sort of substance abuse as well. When you are well off, there are so many healthy ways to self-medicate. When you are desperately poor, what pleasures can you turn to that will help take your mind off the endless, meaningless labor?