Tuesday, February 14, 2006

General India thoughts

I try to describe what's out here and I know it is heavily skewed toward places and not people so I thought I'd try to give you a better idea of who's out here too. It's hard though because it's useless to say they are "funny looking" or describe what they wear. We were kicking around Rajastan for a while and it is what most people think of as "real" India as is it what most tourists see. While I disagree with that sentiment, I'll leave my arguments aside this time. Rajastan has the hot, dry, dusty, very dirty, crowded cities with tons of touts, scams, cheap guesthouses and the like that most people come to expect from India. And they are not disappointed. It's not all bad though and the major draw are the numerous exotic maharaja palaces, walled old cities (some uniquely coloured), huge forts with histories of numerous battles, camel safaris, colourful costumes and turbans (more so than other parts of India), excessive piercings, strong cultural traditions and lots of local festivals and weddings. You gotta love a place where any colour combination goes and mixing of all instruments and rhythms at once is called "music". In short it's the place that gives India much of it's reputation and the tourists love to hate. By Indian standards, Rajastan is a mess. It's below average in important categories like wealth, life expectancy and literacy and it shows. Jaipur is the dirtiest place we've been to on this trip and Jodhpur the smoggiest. Being so close to Pakistan there is a large mix of muslims as well as hindus and we are still trying to sort out all the differences. The muslims in India seem to have adopted a lot of extra cultural baggage here than in other countries.
Honestly, women are treated quite poorly in general. Almost all marriages are arranged, with girls married betwee the ages of 13-21 and guys typically in their mid-20s. Although their systems are totally opposite (Muslim men "buy" their wives while Hindu families pay to get rid of their daughters) they both somehow manage to insult the female. The women will live in the villages and the men work in town so that they rarely see each other except to increase the population, and they are doing a good job of that too. The population explosion here is scarily obvious with almost every girl carrying a small child.
The entire young male population here seems to be a group of sleezy punks and have such obvious sexual problems it's disgusting. Everywhere we go we are followed by groups of them staring. If we are sitting on a train all day our compartment is inevitably twice as full as any other with these guys just stopping to crowd around and stare as soon as they spot us. They also do a lot of blatently obvious sneaking around to take pictures too, when they have a camera which is fortunately not all that often. They'll come running up beside you and put their arm around one of the girls while a friend jumps out from behind a bush and snaps a picture. You can see it coming a mile away and the girls have had some laughs punching these guys as they try their stunts. You have to be thick skinned or totally naive to it all. I'd hate to be a woman here and don't think I'd travel here with my wife as I'd be too compelled to strangle someone. It's bad enough as it is some days. What's the most irritating is how pathetic their skills are with women. They have no "training" as they'll just get an arranged marriage someday to a very submissive wife so there is no incentive to learn anything about females. The best they can come up with is acting like a group of immature 12 year olds when they are actually 20 or so, or, my favourite, saying (very tactfully) to some western lady twice their age "Today is my 18th birthday, wouldn't you like to pleasure me? We'll keep it a secret from your husband." What the hell? Honestly, I kid you not this stuff happens out here. They have a very extreme interpretation of the belief that western women are "looser" than Indian ones? Yeah, it's generally true but damn. It's something that exists throughout India but where there is a lot more tourist/Indian interaction it is worse. Really it's not that bad though unless you crazy enough to think about it all the time. There is never any violent aspect to any of it and we have always felt safe doing whatever we wanted.
As it is a Hindu symbolic thing, many of the men out here have earrings and almost all have moustaches. As part of our attempt to get into the culture here I now have a moustache too. I hate it but the girls insist. Another strange thing that people do is insist and almost demand that you take a picture of or with them. You have to use your camera and then show it to them afterwords and then they walk off happy. That's all there is to it so I don't know why they are so obsessed. Beggars, oh yeah, everywhere. They target the tourists and stand in front of you for 5 times as long as they will a local, even if you tell them to go away like the locals do. Often on trains they won't leave until an Indian passenger tells them to leave us alone. But at least the beggars are well behaved and are not threatening, rude or whatever, like I've seen in some other countries.
The other people travelling out here? That's a totally different mess. Mostly hippies (young and some very old originals). Everyone seems obsessed with yoga and Tibetan stuff. Unfortunately it's a sentiment and interest we can't possibly share after our previous experiences.


At 6:14 PM , Anonymous Amy said...

Hi well-oiled Watkin quartet!
I have to binge read your blogs at once when I have time! I am so jealous of all your adventures. You guys sound like you are having fun, but suffering from the same thing as me..a sort of adventure apathy sometimes. But, my favorite blog was of convincing a kid that a rock was magic and you ran away laughing as this poor kid tried to make the rock work. Now that is funny! I miss travelling with you guys. Do you get my emails? I will be back in Canada in probably August, so I will come and visit you and give you all giant hugs then and we can talk about weird different culture stuff. Love and hugs.

At 9:43 AM , Anonymous Eric said...

Hey Ammon,

Send me an email. My account has deleted all your old emails, so I don't have your address anymore.

Hope you guys are doing well. Making me very jealous.



At 2:04 PM , Blogger huggybigbear said...

Hey guys, just a heads up, the Bird FLu is crossing into india, so be extra careful okay?

Love and Big Hugs Shean


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