I have returned, safely to the United States. I’ll be forever changed by my experience in India. I’m very glad I went. I hope I have many more opportunities to go to different places in the world and bring back the images of those people and cultures.
Over the weekend I went on a excursion to a local historic site and then took some much needed rest. I’ve been very busy taking pictures the last few days, in fact too busy to post here, but I hope to get some images posted tomorrow from the slum I visited this morning and the market this afternoon. Late afternoon I went to an open air fruit and vegetable market. Here are a couple of images I took at that market.
Of course I could help but add just one of a street vendor selling in the classic Indian style on the curb of a busy street, cars, buses and motorcycles whizzing buy just inches from her goods.
Today I met a girl. You might not think that was surprising, but this one might just change my life. And if you let her she could change yours as well. The truth is I actually don’t even know her name and I wasn’t able to ask her because we don’t speak the same language.
Here she is.
She can’t walk. She has never been able too. She has been for surgery and it has not solved the problem. So here she sits on the earthen floor of her families hut day after day.
Here is where she and her family lives.
It’s on this quaint little dirt alleyway in a slum in India.
She need a hand propelled tricycle so she can take care of her own basic needs, like go out to the bathroom (it really not a bathroom, more like a ditch) or even possible find some work and earn some money. One costs about 30,000 Rupee or $450 to $500 USD.
Here is your warning: If you are not prepared to have your hearts moved and your eyes moistened then read no further and come back to this site some other day. But, if you can read through to the end you may find hope.
Today I visited a slum in India. I had no idea what to really expect. Drawing a comparison to the weekend trip to South Central L.A. in High School is impossible. I might imagine that there may be someplace like this place in the United States, but I find it hard to do so.
I’ll share some images of what I found. There are far too many to post here and when I come back you should take the time to come and see me and get a better idea how life is here for these people.
In talking I found out that they wake up around 6 am and get the morning started with washing clothes, cooking the morning meal and then off to work where they will make about 300 Rupee, 50 of which they will pay to the person that found them the job. Every two days you go and get your water in at “crossroad” type location.
After getting water this little girl followed me down an alley of the slum, curious about me and my camera. She was a bit shy, but stopped long enough when I turned around for this snapshot.
When you take your meals in the slum once a week – if your lucky and you work hard – you can afford chicken or even fish from the local market, but normally your meal is rice with a leaf like spinach plant and tomatoes all boiled together. Indians eat with their fingers and you would sit outside your hut and enjoy the meal, much like this lady.
Working in the slum is not easy. Men gather scrap from nearby neighborhoods and sort it, bringing it in on tricycle carts by the mountain full.
This woman motioned to me as I walked down her alleyway. She wanted me to come in and see where she lived. Her hut could not have been more than 8 feet by 10 feet. I had trouble figuring out how to take a picture of it, even with a 17mm lens and 180 degree view. The image you’ll see below is actually 6 images stitched together so you can get the entire view inside. But first she proudly shows me her sewing machine, the way she makes a living. It sits at the entry way to her hut. Here in the slum, she is among the best off because she has a trade.
My time in the slum was drawing to a close. I felt pretty hopeless. I was holding back tears, as I am now writing this. 250 Rupee is just $3.83 USD. But as I wound my way out of the slum I came across this boy playing in the dirt alley.
I thought maybe there is hope for him. Hope that he won’t learn to salvage metal from spent bullets, like his father next to him. There is hope for him because earlier I met his mother learning to sew in an economic development community center here in the slum.
If she can earn enough money to help that boy get an education, who knows what the future might hold for him and the rest of this slum in India.
Today I went to a school to take some pictures. After assembly I was asked to take class pictures of all the grades 1 thru 10. Then I went to individual classes to take some pictures of students working on their studies. Here are a few of the more precious images.
Today one of the people that has much experience in the matters of India’s culture suggested that if I dressed like Indian men I may be better received in some of the places I was going and therefore may get better pictures of the people. The people may act more genuine and treat me with more respect if I showed respect for the culture by dressing the part, so to speak. When in Rome and all that…
So I said “Let’s go shopping!” I didn’t quite know what I was asking of my driver and guide. Finding a store that carries my size here is not only a challenge, but a half day excursion. It took no less than three people Googleing and calling before we left to determine if we were even headed in the right direction. It was close to an hour by car. If you read my blog post about driving in India from the airport then turn the dial past 10 all the way to 11 and you go from driving at night to driving in the day. My host said: “Driving is no fun if it’s not a challenge!”
Shopping was a whole new adventure. I had been warned that no really means yes in India. When you are being served a meal and your host asks you if you want more and you say “No!” then you are served more food. If your “No!” comes with you holding your hands over your plate if there is the slightest space to get food on your plate between your hands you better believe that “No!” means: “Absolutely, get all the food you can squeeze between my fingers onto that plate.” Shopping is about the same. When you enter a clothing store you are measured. As soon as the clerk determines your shirt size every shirt that is in inventory in the entire store in your size is then presented to you. If you show the slightest interest in any item it is put in a pile. Any items you reject are automatically out in your bag for when you check out. You then go through your “slightest interest” pile slowly narrowing down your final decisions until you have every shirt that the store has in inventory in your size in your checkout bag. Then on to pants. Suffice to say I now have a larger wardrobe in India than I do in Tempe, but I be stylin’.
This doesn’t sound much like the old Erick. He’s dressing up? Being flexible? Going with the flow? Somebody better check me for rabies or whatever you check someone for when something is afoot.
On a side note I did buy my driver, guide, his wife and daughter and myself dinner at McDonald’s for $14.75 (US) as a tremendous thank you for the time they spent taking me on this adventure.
I woke up this morning and found that I had come down with a slight cold. After the morning festivities, which actually lasted through the afternoon meal, I went to the local market to buy a few things to nurse myself back to feeling better. The local store is about 1 km away and walking is about the only form a transportation available, so walk I did. Along the way I tried to find an appropriate image to relay the excursion. I could have taken pictures of loose dogs rummaging in a dumpster for food, or mopeds zipping up and down the road where I walked, but those seemed to commonplace for this place. The real picture was this one as I was about to turn the corner for home.
Music has been playing over loudspeakers most of the afternoon and into the evening. It seems very festive here as night comes and my second day in India comes to an end.
I arrived in India at about 2:30 am local time. There was a slight drizzle of rain. It was a bit humid, but much cooler than Phoenix. I was picked up at the airport and made the common mistake of trying to get in the right side of the car. Everything is backwards here, of course. While I no longer drive I do remember the one question I got wrong on my written driver’s test when I was 16 years old: “What do you use your horn for?” or something like that. My mother teased me because I answered: “To let other people know where I am.” or something like that. Well, mother, here in India that is exclusively what the car horn is used for! To let other drivers know where you are. Besides that observation the only time I saw a turn signal being used was a motorcycle that had a left turn signal on contently driving down the highway, with absolutely no intention of tuning left for many kilometers. At lunch today (more on my first meal later) after reporting my observations to the folks I was eating with I was told that driving was done “by instinct” here. To drive you needed to be able to anticipate what the other cars are going to do. Rarely are traffic control signs used to control traffic. They are more like suggestions. “You can tell which way a driver is going to make his car go by the way his face looks,” one party at the table commented.
Today I took lunch with several very nice Indian men. Lunch is the main meal of the day. Today is India’s Independence Day. There was nothing special for the meal and except for a “Happy Independence Day” greeting at the beginning of the meal it seamed like it was as usual as any other meal would be. It is traditional to eat with ones fingers here and I did just as everyone else did and used no utensils, except those that were used to serve the food to my plate. The conversation was varied and I was introduced to everything from India’s culture to its politics. Fascinatingly all in English.
I’m off to rest now. Hopefully I’ll get to an open air market this evening and maybe to and Independence Day celebration this evening. I’ll be taking my nap to car horns blaring at the street below, thinking of writing to the California DMV about that question on the written driving test.
After a delay of several days due to airline ticket changes I am finally flying out today to India. I left home this morning at 6 am and flew to LAX where I am writing this entry from the International Terminal waiting at the gate for the departing flight to Hong Kong where I will have about a 2 hour layover and connection to India.
I’ll arrive at just after midnight local time in India and have spent more than 28 hours traveling. I’m excited to meet the people of India and experience the culture. I’m told there is an incredible botanical garden near where I will be staying and those of you that know me know well I can’t resist photographing in a botanical garden.
Today the trip has really started to become real. I finished my eVisa application and bought my travel insurance. I researched flight times and determined the the total flight time to India is 28 hours with layovers in either LA or Chicago and London.
There is a sense of excitement mixed with serenity. I’m eager to see what plans have been laid for me, but amazingly have been granted an unusual peace and calm I normally don’t have when coming up on a new adventure.
Just a few short days to get the last few things done before departure.