Friday, February 8, 2008

India - Final Thoughts and Musings

On our way out of India we spent the last day in Bangalore.  Our host Mr RamaChandre had unfortunately been hospitalized with gall stones and we were left a little loose without a translator.  On our way into Bangalore, we witnessed a fellow getting a traffic ticket.  We looked at each other and laughed - what could possibly constitute a traffic infraction in India?  Could it be an illegal U-turn - not likely - U-turns are very much a part of the driving scheme here.  Or was he was going the speed limit of a car and he was a truck? - the limits are different for differing vehicles.  It couldn't be for not wearing a helmet as although they are more prevalent in the cities, they are not mandatory and more often than not appear as a fashion accessory draped over their arm like the Queen carrying her handbag.  Maybe it was because he was going the wrong way up the road - Naw if it's faster or easier to do that then the cars and bikes and Tuk Tuks will just move over and you can make your way.  Driving on the sidewalk?  Well it really is just a widening of the road and in most places is dirt and part of the road - a quick honk and the pedestrians move over and create a new lane for traffic!!  Had he run the traffic light (which are few) - no, because you can watch the seconds count down and know when it's your turn!  Child falling asleep on the front bar of his handlebars of his moped? - totally acceptable.  Maybe he didn't see the Speed Breaker, Dead Slow sign (those are speed bumps).  So, we don't know what he did wrong and never will.

Other quirks and quarks: all of the bikes have this little triangular thing on the back wheel that we finally figured out is the kickstand.  Most Indians are Vegetarian (that we encountered) and if Non-Veg they will take meat (never beef or pork) on Tuesday and Saturday or Sunday.  In deference to the Muslims, meat is never eaten on Friday.  The men are quite slim and I'm not sure if it is the veg diet.  I saw an Indian Hybrid - they opened up the back of the big truck (like a gravel truck ) and there was a board dividing top from bottom- the top was filled with men crouching on their haunches and the bottom was filled with goats!!

The Hindus shave their kid's heads 3 times before their 3rd birthday and they believe it makes their brains grow bigger and they have such beautiful thick hair that it must make their hair grow faster and stronger.  They also speak a mix of whatever their language is ( Hindi in the north, Tamil in other places) but as many different languages as there are states - and English which gives you a guess at what they are saying.

You see swastikas everywhere, but it is a Sanskrit(the oldest language in the world) symbol of good luck.  The biggest vehicle rules the road and we rarely saw road rage.  Yesterday, however, we were trying to pass a large vehicle and honked to pass just as it pulled out to pass someone else.  We pulled back in behind it and at the next opportunity, pulled out to pass.  He went wide again, which forced us to now go 3 wide and onto the shoulder of the opposing traffic all the time honking and glaring at the driver and saying prayers to whoever was listening.

Cricket here is religion not sport and yesterday we picked up some cricket equipment for a village we toured.  You always see kids playing pickup cricket in empty dirt lots along the way.  The paper is filled with all of the cricket scores for page upon page.  Other things in the news are: water issues - there is an outbreak of cholera in Bangalore  as during some construction they broke a pipe and it spilled sewage into the drinking water pipe.  Issues on keeping girls in school or opportunities for girls/women are also quite prevalent.  They have handed out water testing kits to all the kids in Tamil Nadu (one of the states) to raise awareness.  For the entire time we were in India there was the news of a kidney racket headed up by a doctor from Canada (of Indian descent).  He would take poor labourers and promise them 5000 Rupees(minimum daily wage is 50Rps) and then take them for a medical test.  He would remove one of their kidneys and send it to Europe.  They caught him in Nepal just before we left.

Some final favorite sights:  Laundry hanging on the median to dry in the big cities; a father driving his 15 year old daughter and 3 of her friends to school on his moped ( a total of 5 adults-the most I ever saw); a man carrying a goat across his lap on his motorcycle; women carrying huge bundles of wood down the streets (even in the cities) that totally obliterate their faces; men digging a trench by hand to lay the new fibre optic cable in Kerala (another state).

So my final sign that I saw in India and I can't remember where but for India and its steps forward it seems appropriate  The Journey is the Destination.


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