Arun is Bringing You...Your Daily Remedy

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Indian Excursion

(More Pictures to come Soon!)
As I mentioned in my last post, I just recently returned from a trip to India. This was my third visit there. Rather than share the boring details of an exotic vacation, I'm going to list some crazy observations that those of you living in the western world will find amusing and interesting.

The funny thing is, I occasionally get readers from India, to whom (along with those in some other Asian Countries) this post will mean something totally different.

Observation 1: India is FAR
When I was looking to book my tickets, potential itineraries popped up on my screen. One airline had layovers in Taipei and Malaysia, and the other, New York and Frankfurt, Germany. They both took about the same amount of flight time. Translation: India is almost exactly half way around the world.

Let me put this in perspective for you. I left on a Tuesday night and arrived to Chennai, India on Thursday night. That's two days of my life GONE! To be fair, that includes a couple of layovers as well as the 12 hours ahead India is of US Pacific Standard Time.

Still, 19 hours from Las Angeles to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is a hop, skip and a freakin pole-vault away.

Observation 2: There's no such thing as "Personal Space"
There are so many damn people in India, that its pretty much impossible to have personal space.

Here's one example. On my last leg of travel into India, this relatively plump Indian guy sits next to me in the plane. He then proceeds to completely SPRAWL out so that his leg and left arm are completely infringing on my zone! I even have the arm rest down and his elbow is still all up in my business! Now this guy wasn't so big that he couldn't confine himself to his zone! Anyone who's read this little ditty knows how I feel about these types of things.

Observation 3: India is HOT!
Okay. So it didn't help that I made my trip during summertime in India, but even still, it was ridiculous. When I arrived in Chennai, it was about 95 degrees Fahrenheit and humid. Its hard to breath, hard to walk and I lost my appetite (hard to believe, I know). I thought maybe when I went north it would be cooler.

Ding Dong! I'm Wrong!

Let's put this in perspective, shall we? 75 to 80 degrees is about perfect. 85 is hot. 90 is pretty hot. 95 is very hot. 100 is extremely hot.

Someone please tell me the word to describe ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FREAKING-FIVE degrees Fahrenheit!!! 125 Degrees!

My Uncle tried to offer some consolation: "Well Arun, at least it's a dry heat."

Me: "Well maybe that's because Mr. Humidity thought it was too hot and left town!"

I don't care what kind of heat it is, 125 is damn hot! And if feeling it in the air wasn't enough, at certain places we visited, you were required to take off your shoes.

I now know what walking on hot coals feels like. I seriously couldn't stand in one spot for more than one or two seconds!

Observation 4: I Love Good Plumbing
You really learn to appreciate the art that is Plumbing when you visit a third world country. Tap water is undrinkable unless you boil it. The bathrooms are either a hole in the ground, or a really janky toilet.

There's no such thing as a "hot" and "cold" valve in the showers. Basically, water is pumped from an underground well to a holding tank on the roof of the building. The water comes out of the spout with no pressure at all and just the force of gravity. The water temperature is whatever temperature the sun has heated the water up to thus far in the day. Consequently, you shower in the morning for cool showers, and in the late afternoon for hot ones.

Another funny thing is in most houses, there is no separation between the toilet and shower. Basically, you walk into a small, tile-lined room that has a shower spout on the wall, and a toilet. No tub, or shower curtains or anything.

Observation 5: India is Incredibly Poverty Stricken
We all know India is a third world country, but the level of poverty there is almost unfathomable.

In India, there are many levels of poverty. The poorest of the poor (which number far beyond what I could accurately estimate) have little more that than a loin cloth. The have absolutely NOTHING.

Slightly better off are the homeless who have built little slums from straw and might own a tattered pair of pants. None of them own shoes.

The most disturbing thing is the amount of children on the streets begging for anything. I was walking to this Temple, and a really cute little girl, no older than maybe seven, walked with me for a mile begging me for money. I felt terrible. The problem is, the second you give someone any money, you get swarmed by other beggers looking for money.

I snuck her a couple of Rupees.

Observation 6: Traffic is INSANE
Words cannot describe the insanity that is commuting in India. Everytime I go, it takes me a couple of days to get comfortable even riding in a car. There are absolutely ZERO traffic laws observed and the routine maneuvers drivers pull are death defying!

There are a ton of motorcycles on the road that are treated like minivans. Driving is the Dad with his son sitting in front of him holding onto the handle bars. The wife is sitting behind him, side-saddle while holding an infant in her arms, none of whom are wearing a helmet. Safe. The pictures below (coming soon) don't do justice to the craziness!

Observation 7: India has so many magnificent Wonders and is Culturally Rich!
I know my previous six observations aren't making you itch to visit India, but there is so much to see! Culturally, India is so different from the western world.

The relics are amazing, the food is great, and being immersed in a totally non-western culture is amazing and eye-opening. I really feel that everyone needs to visit a place culturally different and economically opposite to their resident surroundings! It opens your eyes, gets you out of your comfort zone, and brings new meaning and appreciation to life.

Not to mention, there's always good adventure to be had!


Mark said...

So now that you have seen the poverty in India, what are YOU going to do to help?

Anonymous said...

I concur about road safety. I've been to India about 3 times myself. 2 times over the past 6 years or so. I hated it. I mean the food, and the culture and all that is wonderful, but travelling on the roads just SUCK. In India, the gap between the rich and the poor is so wide, it's hard to know where to begin to help.

As for the comment above mine: i'm sure there's lots of things individuals can do to help. But there are just SO MANY PEOPLE in need that individual efforts will have no effect. Besides, India (even though in poverty) seems to be something of 'proud' country. eg. In the aftermath of the tsunamis, India rejected foreign aid even when it was offered by various countries. India will not get rid of poverty on its own. It needs help. And it needs to recognize that.

That said, good day!