Monday, September 12, 2011
India in General
There are many interesting sights and sounds in India. Each state and region has different languages, culinary specialties, and religious composition. My first stop once my work period started was Mumbai. We weren't there very long but long enough to get several good photos as we were driving around in the bus to our school visits. It was Krishna's birthday on the Monday we were there, and one of the things they do to celebrate that day is to build human pyramids to try to reach these clay pots strung up high between two posts or trees. Thankfully that day, we had some unexpected free time, so I was able to go to the Gateway to India (as far as I know, this is what Indians call it despite the Wiki entry stating differently) with a couple of the other recruiters, and we had an interesting time in South Mumbai. I'm not used to travelling with white people, and men kept stopping to ask if they could get a picture with the girls. It was a little weird and quite annoying, so we tried to not to stop in one place for any length of time. In any case, we had a good afternoon where we also enjoyed high tea at the Taj Hotel, which overlooks the Arabian Sea and the Gateway to India.
We also learned that the name Bombay actually came from the Portuguese Bom Bahia (meaning Good Bay) and that they had difficulties pronouncing the name Mumbai for some reason. I hadn't realised that the Portuguese had gone that far north. I thought they had really only stayed around Goa. So it was interesting to learn a bit of the history there.
Next up was New Delhi. We had a pretty busy schedule there, so I didn't get to see much other than street scenes, but it was a good visit. We did have another unexpected free period when a school visit got cancelled, so we had time to visit Qutab Minar, one of the oldest structures still standing in Delhi. It's about a century old! On one day, we also went out to Dehradun, which was about a 6-hour train ride from Delhi each way. We went for one fair that only lasted 2 hours, so it was quite a journey that day, but it was interesting. Dehradun is really small, and it's much more crowded and noisy than anything we had seen, so for those who had never been to India before, it was quite an overwhelming experience. The trip goes through a lot of farmland, which I believe was filled with sugar cane plantations from the looks of it. The city itself is in the foothills of the Himalayas, so it started to become a bit hilly as we got close to it.
I remember when I was in Monterrey how much I noted contrast. Big houses next to shacks, the poor next to the rich. Here it seems to be even more exaggerated. I've seen mansions with cows in a field next door, street dwellers passing by monolithic office buildings and palace-like hotels. I wonder what it feels like to know that you not only have less than the next guy but that your less isn't enough for survival.
Yet we learned that all people here can go to school for free; the guide our tour organiser got for us says that those who beg on the streets just don't want to go to school. I'm not sure how much of that is true, especially if they're orphans being controlled by someone who might be threatening them, so I'll have to research that a little more.
I'll put more entries tomorrow. If you have questions about the photo album I'll be posting, you'll just have to wait until all my blog posts are finished!