juliann and i had always talked about visiting india. i
don't know how our fascinatino with the country began.
maybe it came from something as simple as loving their
cuisine. nevertheless, we had decided to go in 2010, we
should save more money, etc. but then i realized that now
would be the best time, i legally couldn't work, and i don't
knwo if i'll ever have so much free time. so we moved the
trip up by a year and went to this exotic country.
india was everything that i expected it to be yet at the
same time was way beyond my expectations. as travelers we
tend to romanticize countries. what's more, certain people,
who are sick and tired of our capitalistic western
materialism yearn for the apparent free and uninhibitied
mysticism of the east.
this myth is quickly disspelled upon arrival. indians are
just as (if not more so because they need it more) money-
hungry as westerners. they want nice things but many times
can't afford them. the first thing you notice when you get
to india (we flew in to mumbai) is the aggressive touting.
if you think that sales person at the gap was annoying
because he didn't back off enough when you said, "thank you,
just looking." then you're in for a surprsie in india.
i had people grab my arm and physically pull me into their
store. i had people put goods in my hand and demand
payment. if you stop for so much as a second the vendors
will converge on you like a pack of hungry lions would on a
then there is the staring, it was something else, and i
don't understand it. even in the animal kingdom, staring is
seen as an act of aggression. in the west, if you stare at
someone or their wife you're asking for an ass-kicking. not
so in india. they stare at you (and stared at juliann)
without abandon. it was very tough to get used to.
but really what bothered me the most was their treatment of
women (particularly western women). although all of the
bollywood movies would have you believe that women's rights
are fine and well the stark reality is that women are
completely subservient and repressed in this society.
i read this interesting feministic debate about whetehr teh
culture that allows women to degrade themselves (i.e. wear
skanky clothing, pole dance) wasn't wrose than these
repressed cultures. having experienced it first hand i can
say with utter conviction that it's not. sure, there may be
a false sense of empowerment by a woman when she waves her
snatch in a client's face, but the alternative, that she be
completely under the rule of her husband seems much worse.
this of course stems from my feeling that an individual
should have complete autonomy over herself (well i guess to
a certain extent). there is just something demeaning and
dehumanizing when take that away from a person. but of
course the women in india weren't all sullen slaves bent to
the will of their master. sure there are many prosperous
women in india and some who enjoy great freedoms. but the
ultimate question is, all else being equal? where would you
want your daughter to be born? america is my choice for
india is a beautiful and exotic country. it is a true
adventure vacation. people WANT to talk to you. they come
up to you and question you. it is quite a culture shock
when you get direct questions (for example i was asked if
juliann was my only wife or if i had others). especially
coming from an american big city you are distrustful of
people approaching you. but there is an openness in india
that is unparalleled in all other civilizations.
and on a whole i would say that indians are healthier
(except of course those starving in the slums!) the further
south we went the healthier they appeared. there's an
interesting case study i read in malcolm gladwell's book
"outliers" about a town in PA (i believe) where noone seemed
to get the sickness that plagues most of other america
(heart disease, etc.) and they tried to figure out why this
was the case.
after many years of exhaustive studying they determined that
it was as simple as the close bonds the community had to
each other. the normal stress of city-living did not take
the toll on them. i wonder if this is the same in india,
people are so friendly too each other and there truly seems
to be a communal spirituality which i find beautiful and
shamelessly lacking in america.
but there is a lot of ugliness in india. there was animal
cruelty, the afore-mentioned repression of women, and of
course a cmopletely corrupt government that provided no help
to its most vulnerable.
when you travel you open yourself up to different cultures
and views. i find indian ways of life interesting and in
many ways better than american. but i got highly defensive
when people spoke ill of america. when i read the newspaper
or watched the news i felt that there was this hidden glee
that america was a "declining power". really? india, who
is currently freaking out about china's activities in the
disputed kashmir region collaborating with pakistan, wants
this same china to assume the throne?
most of it is just bitterness. i read many articles
complaining that "slumdog millionaire" was only seen as a
success once it won the oscars. why should they be judged
by american standards? another avenue of discourse was how
to keep the "brain drain" from accelerating. the educated
tended to leave india and go to the western world. in fact,
i noticed quite a bit of resentment towards those who did
the main reason for the brain drain in my opinion is the
corruption of the government. noone wants to build a tall
tower with the threat of it being knocked down by a
government regulation from a greedy government looking to
cash in. for example: the british began a lucrative tea
industry that was later bought by some belgiums. they made
massive sums of money. then, in the 1970s there was a
nationalization movement. 75% of the company was to be held
by "indians" (i.e. stooges for the government). who would
want to build a large business with this threat looming?
india is beautiful. it is exotic. it will be a trip i will
never forget, but at the same time it reaffirmed how much i
love my country and our values. i hate moral relativism you
absolutely can't convince me that it is BETTER for THIS
society to have women repressed. it would be a major
improvement to india in general if they would allow their
women the same freedoms that the loose morals of the western
world grant them.
i will definitely return to india some day, i would love to
bring my children. some day. but now, i'm broke as shit.