Before reading this, you probably should read CeCe’s earlier post on her love/hate relationship with India. While I’m glad she had a beautiful time last night, I think she’s looking at this awful, ugly country through rose-colored glasses. Has she forgotten the slimy man that tried to kiss her in the park in Calcutta? Or the equally sketchy man who followed her around Bodhgaya and wouldn’t leave her alone? Or the ten year old boys that made kissing noises at her in the market the other day?
This morning on the Ganges, we saw not one, but at least four human corpses floating in the river. There is excrement everywhere, including in many of the Hindu temples. The river itself smelled distinctly of motor oil. And the people by and large simply aren’t that nice. There have been exceptions, but not enough. I’m looking forward to getting out of here as fast as possible. Nepal can’t come soon enough.
Yes, I acknowledge that poverty is the root cause of much of what disturbs me. Living as a poor Indian can’t be easy. But I hold the government here to blame for much of what ails this country. Somehow Calcutta can afford a subway system but can’t afford to replace its countless open-air urinals. (God only knows where women relieve themselves during the day.) How low on the government’s priority list is toilet access for its people? Here in Varanasi, one of Hinduism’s most holy places, they don’t seem to have discovered the traffic light. I read somewhere that over 200 people die each day on the roads of India. Perhaps a little investment in infrastructure might alleviate that problem. Frankly, the level of neglect is sickening.
But because of the geography of the region, we’re likely to return in a few weeks to catch a few more sights and visit some of our friends’ relatives. How could we possibly visit Northern India with out dropping in on the Taj Mahal? So maybe this country and its people can redeem itself in my eyes, but I’m not holding my breath.
There have been some nice moments. One traveler we met said that the saving grace of India is that a good moment almost surely follows after the the painful ones. I’d prefer a better ratio, say 5 to 1, but his outlook is helping me find the shiny side of the coin. For example, spending Easter morning under the banyon tree where the Buddha attained enlightenment was one of the highlights. Perhaps I’ll blog about that soon. But in the meantime, Nepal here we come!