Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sandy Does the Subcontinent

Old chum Sandy O is on the road again, this time kicking up dirt in India. As usual she is blessing the internet community with a series of dispatches to document the experience, which seem to have a distinctly different timbre than her last sojourn. Hard to put a finger on it. Regardless, the peripatetic wordsmith is always worth the read. I found the following excerpt to be particularly interesting:

While despising an entire country is probably never fully justified, I have had a perfect storm of frustrations. It started when I was leaving the train station in Gaya - in my exhaustion I slipped and took a really bad fall down the slick marble stairs, with about three of the edges slamming me in the lower back. The impact was so hard that I blacked out briefly. I was terrified for a moment that I’d broken something in my back or somehow concussed myself. I looked up, half expecting help struggling out of the heavy pack and to my feet, since I was shaking so hard I couldn’t quite manage it, but aside from some blank staring, the crowds of passengers were just stepping over me. I realized in complete terror that I could die right there and no one would do anything except steal my stuff. I have never, ever seen such a total lack of compassionate humanity in people’s eyes in my life, and frankly, what I saw scared me. It was not the best opening to a stint of solo travel.

Aside from residual pain in my back, neck and shoulders, and not being able to lift my right leg, I pulled out of the physical effect in a day or so but the psychological impact wasn’t so easy to shake. It doesn’t help that everyone - and I mean everyone - here lies all the time, from the guy at the post office to people at the internet cafe. I would bet my life savings that if I went and asked right now how much a bottle of soda cost, they would say 25 rupees, even though the maximum retail price is printed clearly as 20. At least they’re consistent.

When they’re not lying, they’re just generally harassing you, unless of course they’re sleepy and then they just part their eyes enough to wave you dismissively out of their open shop before going back to having a snooze. Now I understand that Bihar is one of, if not the, poorest states, but I’d really like to retain at least a few of my liberal illusions, like the one that says poverty does not necessarily engender a culture of grotesquely dishonest, lazy and aggressive people.

Oh and then I started my period......

Sandy Does the Subcontinent

No comments: