Worldwide Wanderings Image Map - Please Use Text Links Below
Image Map - Please use text links below
Return to Chronicle Overviews
                                                           (click here for related story on driving in India)
the women of India, adorned in their graceful, flowing, salwar kameez'sMar. 6-8, 1999 Delhi, India

India is . . .
Our driver is fighting his way, slowly inch by inch, through the hideously congested traffic circle (of which we're stuck, smack dab in the middle). I look up in a daze and begin to watch the huge green billboard above us change from 984,738,976, to 984,738,977, then to 984,738,978. For about every second that clicks by, on average one life in India has ended and two others have begun. This official population counter billboard is accurately symbolic of India's story.. India is nearly one billion people crowded and still growing fast. Compared with the U.S., that's more than 3.5 times the number of people crammed into an area about one third the size. Simple translation: people, people, people everywhere.

Qutab Minar just outside Dehli properIt's the masses of people that make India so fascinating and engaging, yet so hectic and exhausting, all at the same time. Each day, the riding of this emotional roller-coaster leaves me completely and utterly exhausted. It's funny, but only passively watching the people busily bobbing about their daily business makes me want to cry, then seconds later laugh, and moments after that simply shake my head in amazement. Sitting at the steps of one of the country's many awe-inspiring temples forces me to quietly reflect; as much as navigating the busy streets and sidewalks makes me want to scream. At any given time, the constant barrage of sights, sounds, and smells is on the verge of sending me into a screaming hysteria, if, if only I could catch my breath for long enough to do so.

Hay!!  I mean Hey!! Watch out!With so many people and so little of everything to go around, folks have to do whatever they can just to get by. Theirs is a life of few 'lucky breaks. India has a huge number of very poor, a small but growing number of very rich, and on the surface, it seems an even smaller number of middle class.

One of the many elephants roaming the streets of JapuirIn this chaotic land of 'anything goes', I try my best to keep in mind that nothing should surprise me about this place, yet many of the things we see do just that. Children gathering cow dung to sell for cooking fuel. Fifteen people piled on a tipping rickshaw built to carry only four. Farmers marking their cows by painting their horns rainbows of bright colors. The fenceless zoo of elephants, cows, camels, monkeys, peacocks, goats, dogs, pigs, and donkeys roaming freely through all the rural and city streets. The list goes on.

A friendly and very curious crowd gathers around usYet despite all the turmoil and calamity, we find the Indians to be some of the friendliest, most curious, and easy-going people we've met. One of the first things we notice here is that everywhere we go, around each corner that we turn, we are constantly and incessantly stared at. Once I understood that staring is in no way taboo in the Indian culture, and that what our upbringing might have us mistake as threatening behavior, is actually simply an innocent display of an incredible curiosity, our travels became more relaxed and much more fun. Our answer to their curiosity about peoples lives (ours) in lands (the U.S.) that they'll probably never know, is always a smile and a friendly "hello". Nearly without fail, this turns a 'cuts through your soul' stare with a 'fighting the world' grimace, into welcoming grin.

Dehli
Always a welcoming smileIt's only minutes before we have a handful of boys and men surrounding us. Our plan was to have some quite time in the shade on the grass of Dehli's central park to plan our attack on the city's sights. Instead, we are being attacked from all directions with a barrage of questions about just about everything. "What your job?" "How much your watch?" "How big your family?" Aside from pure curiosity, they each had ulterior motives behind their friendly conversation. The shoe shine boys want a few rupees to snaz up my boots, the soda pop hustlers are searching for a few coins in exchange for a drink, three of the others are just enjoying the rare opportunity to gawk at a woman with white skin, and two of our new 'pals' are trying their best to talk us into letting them clean the wax out of our ears. Yep, that's right, I really can't believe it either, but they each have a little book full of testimonials and a little kit full of tools to prove they are true ear cleaning 'professionals'.

Laura getting her ears cleaned in Delhi's Connaught PlaceIt's sheer calamity for the first few minutes, but after the dust settles, my shoes are still dirty, the soda boy is calling me 'chicken man' and laughing at what obviously is an inside joke, one of the ear cleaning men just defended Laura's honor and chased away the three gawkers (after one of them got brave and brushed the two inches of exposed skin at her ankle under auspices of shooing away a fly), and the other ear cleaning man is busy at work probing into one of Laura's ears with a ten inch metal rod wrapped with a dab of cotton on one end. This place is absolutely nuts I think to myself - it gives newcomers a real 'earful' one way or the other.

Previous Chronicles Next Chronicle

Home | Route Plans  | Chronicles | Road Stories | In Their Words | Souvenirs | Where We Are Now
Send a Postcard | Join the Adventure | Travel Help | Thanks To... | Email Us | Site Map

Send mail to scottk@worldwidewanderings.com with questions or comments about this web site.
Last modified: June 02, 1999    Photographs and text 1998 Scott and Laura Kruglewicz. All Rights Reserved.

 

LinkExchange LinkExchange
LinkExchange Member