Garbage is a huge problem. This photo was taken in Port Blair while waiting for the ferry to take us to Havelock Island, but it could have been taken anywhere in India. Not a day goes by when we don’t catch at least one debilitating snootfull of the stuff.
To those neo-spiritualists looking to India for enlightenment, I point here. Maybe we can start with public sanitation, and work up more gradually to the soul?
All smart-assery aside, it is difficult to seriously criticize a nation of over a billion people, largely employed, many of whom are barely partially literate, and who speak any of hundreds of different languages; a nation as peaceful and tolerant, both inwardly and outwardly, as India. There are clearly some solutions in play here, even if they are hard for an outsider to see. If there is an evident garbage problem, if there may be a caste-driven mindset of, “someone else will do it,” even if the final “someone else” in that chain is a COW, literally a sacred cow, who am I to say it is not the least problematic of available options at this time? Just don’t call it enlightenment… yet :)
We embarked on this trip chanting the mantra, “No learning, no enlightenment,” but in spite of this, in the past couple of weeks, there are several things that I have learned:
1. Indian traffic proves a point I’ve spent most of my life trying to make: there don’t need to be rules to for there to be harmony. Traffic here is insane, but what is crazier still is that no-one gets angry. No-one raises their voice. When a tuk-tuk pulls out in front of a car, the car slides around it; when you launch yourself into traffic as a pedestrian, the traffic moves around you like water, not stopping to question, just going with the flow.
2. It is possible to move a twenty-foot length of metal pipe on a bicycle at rush hour.
3. In India it is always rush hour.
4. Decoding the Indian wobble-head thing is impossible. It can mean yes, no, maybe, I don’t care, I am bored, etc., which in my book means that it actually means nothing. It does, however, make Westerners want to eat their own heads.
5. Even monks shop for DVDs and talk on cell phones.
6. Eating dal for breakfast ensures that you won’t get hungry until 4pm.