here, there, everywhere


In India on May 20, 2009 at 9:33 am

You can’t really write about India without writing about the poverty.  I haven’t written anything so far, not because I don’t see it, but because I’m trying to process it all.

In the Paharganj in Delhi where I first stayed, it’s so visible it’s painful.  I call a lot of the kids ‘spiders’ because of the way they move around on their misshapen limbs, or what’s left of them.  Everywhere you go there little kids accost you with hands outstretched asking for food.  “Please madam, one rupee”.  In Varanasi there were many as well but I don’t think I noticed them as much, possibly because when I was out I was usually in a rickshaw or down on the ghats.  Barely any in Darjeeling, except for one man I noticed on more than one occasion.  He was probably somewhere in his forties, bent and crooked legs, missing his left arm.  He was fairly quiet as far as the begging goes, but I noticed him especially because of his turqoise eyes, the exact same colour as Lake Louise in the Rockies.  I must have passed him two times up on the ridge towards the zoo and back, but the last day I was shoveling some Dairy Milk into my mouth when I passed him again with his hand outstretched.  It felt absolutely cruel to walk by someone in need while I have more than he could ever want, so I walked back and gave him the rest of my chocolate to be rewarded with the most beautiful smile.  You wish you could do more, but what?

Down here in Kolkata it’s bad once again.  Yesterday I passed a boy who might have had polio, his legs twisted out at weird angles behind him while he scooted past on his arms.  Another young woman lying in the gutter dragging her useless legs behind her.  Then in the evening I saw a man who had no legs below his knees.  We passed him on the way to the book store as he shuffled along on his arms, trying to keep his scarf from falling down and getting in his way.  Later on we passed him again, sitting with his back to a bank building, and when he saw me he reached out both hands pleading for money or food while his stumps wagged in the air.  That one was the worst, and again, what can you do?

Then there are the ones that make me chuckle for the sheer weirdness of it all.  Just around the corner from the hotel there is a woman who I don’t think can walk at all.  She’s missing most of the teeth on the right side of her mouth and the ones on the left are huge and fit poorly in her mouth.  She reminds me of those mechanical witches at halloween or santas at Christmas, the ones that stand there and wave back and forth.  She’s the same, she lies on her left side and with her right hand joins her fingers lightly together at the tips and bring them towards her mouth and then back about 6 inches before doing it all over again, again and again in rhythm.  The one time I didn’t see her doing that was when it looked like her hand had stalled in front of her mouth while her left hand tapped her begging dish, almost like her system had shorted out.

It’s hard to see this and I understand why people don’t want to know about it.  At least in Vancouver most of the worst of the worse is contained in the East Side so if you don’t want to see it you just avoid the neighbourhood.  But here it’s everywhere and it doesn’t take long to start blocking it out in one way or another.  Once in awhile it breaks through again and you’re overcome with a feeling of total hopelessness.  A bunch of us were discussing it one night, we can’t fix what the country’s government won’t fix.  I guess the best you can do is behave responsibly in your own country and try to right the wrongs there.  It’s frustrating and it’s sad.  How on earth could you ever repair something like this?

  1. Nice to read your post on our poverty.One of the most widespread and dangerous problems faced by India is that of poverty, hunger and starvation. There is nothing more horrifying than the realization that as we live our happy lives here, millions of our fellow citizen live in hunger and face starvation. The majority of the western population today lives in poverty. It is clear that the world system west have set up today is unjust and inhumane. Forbes magazine reported that in 2004 there were 587 billionaires worldwide, with a combined net worth of $1.9 trillion dollars. Otherwise, how can we allow this situation to continue with less than 10% of the world population controlling over 90% of the wealth and resources on this earth? Wrong policies and economic exploitation of IMF,WTO,World bank is also responsible for worlwide economic injustice.

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