If you were asked to take a leave, where would you go? I will assume that you will imagine yourself somewhere relaxing, maybe in an island swimming in a clear blue ocean and partying all night. After all, we labourers do not get too much holidays these days as life is getting tougher and everyone is afraid to lose his precious job. My curiosity brings me to India, though I know that this trip will not be an easy one. My intention is not to see the spots listed on “1000 places to visit before you die” but to experience first hand how a population of 1.21 billion spend their day.
To know India is to explore it’s streets. You can do it either by walking around, by rickshaw (manual or auto) or if you feel like the ultimate tourist an AC TATA will suit you well. To describe the streets of India as “bustling” is an ultimate understatement. It is a system of chaos that unexplainably works well for them. Anything that moves is welcome in the streets – public buses, classic Ambassasdor cars, old Vespa motorcycle, bicycle, two-wheel manual pulled cart, dogs, monkeys, squirrel, sheeps, camel, and the “lovely ladies” – cows. Unlike in UAE where the Ferraris are the king, in India the cows are the queen of the road. They are untouchable, they pissed on the street as they pleased and everyone will stop to make way for them. If you are planning a visit, make sure that your ears are ready. Indians has a habit of execssive using of car horns. They use it not to disrespect anyone or to initiate a fight, it’s just a matter of establishing their presence on the road. I have never seen an accident inspite the obvious lack of road signage or traffic lights, so the horns must be effective though it will give you a headache at the end of the day.
Roaming the streets will show you two faces of India or should I say of life in general: 1) those who choose to live and fight the difficulties and work 2) those who just surrender and sleep all day. It makes me wonder how a 70 year old human body can carry such heavy stuff for a mere 20 rupees earning, if a kid working on his father shop is attending school or if a lady selling some snack will be able to earn enough to bring home a meal. On the contrary, there are those who hopelessly quit – they loiter at train stations, they take shelter on the streets, they begged for food or money. But who am I to judge? Maybe they had enough harshness and call it a day. Greet them “Namaste” , congratulate them on their World Cup Cricket win or mention that you like Katrina Kapoor, surely you will recieve a warmth smile. They are helpful, friendly people (except for those whose job is to con tourist) and they love to ask you where you from. Oftentimes they will look at me and shout “Japan”, “Korea” or “China” and I would politely say no. I tell them that I am from Philippines and they will look confused as if trying to picture where the heck in the world is Philippines.
I admire the tenacity of the Indians. Their willingness to face life’ s battle, their contentment on simple things and the faith that envelopes them. I must confessed that I am not a religous person but anyone who has as much faith as them have my utmost respect. The only regret that I have is not bringing chocolates or biscuits with me to give to the kids, who will enthusiastically greet you with a “hi”, “hello” and ask if you can take a photo of them.