Have been back in England now for almost a week, and have been reflecting on my trip to India. It continues to strike me with its contrasts
- · The beauty of the Taj Mahal and the unsightliness of the rubbish lining the highways and streets.
- · The refined and gracious demeanor of those who served us in the hotels contrasted with the hundreds of slum children in old Delhi.
I began to wonder what modern India was all about.I had seen and experienced the 5 star Hotels (Palaces). I had visited our offshoring office where well educated young professionals serviced our IT desk in the UK, completed tax returns for various KPMG firms around the world. The wonders of the Moghul empires live on today. But so do ancient ways of living it seems.
My guide had indicated that while the western world offshored to India, 45% of Indians were illiterate. My research on return found he had exagerattted somewhat…but it is still stands at over 25% and for women it remains at 36%. A significant barrier to socio-economic advancement for millions of Indians. It is estimated that by the year 2020 over 50% of the worlds illiterate population will live in India. The absence of an adequate school infrastructure is a major cause. Most schools do not have proper sanitation.
The caste system continues in India. While in the urban centres the different castes do mingle, intermarriage is not accepted and discrimination based on caste still continues.
How it’s structured
Broadly speaking, a caste system is a process of placing people in occupational groups. Rooted in the Hindu religion and based on a division of labor, the caste system, among other things, dictates the type of occupations a person can pursue and the social interactions that he/she may have. It is a complex long standing part of Indian society and structure, which presents considerable challenges in modern India.
One of the questions I had when I returned centred on where and how the people of India lived. I saw so many shanty towns and slum like buildings …it turns out that 19% of Delhi’s people live in slums. No wonder I saw so many of them. Modernisation has led to massive building boom …apartments and highrises, but unfortunately, I did not get a sense for the typical home of an indian. Wikipedia says that extended families live together, grandparents children, in laws and grandchildren..all sharing the same kitchen..so brothers, sisters, cousins grow up together… the eldest woman in the house sets the menu and leads the cooking. Even with modernisation nuclear families are still a small ( but growing) section.
In villages much of family life occurs outdoors. Men bathe outdoors ….ican attest to that as I saw men constantly on the side of the road in villages over low rise wells washing —–practicaly naked. One often saw beds outside where people napped or slept. And of course food is constantly cooked outdoors
Sanitation and hygiene is severely lacking. The population in India produces thousands of tons of garbage so the trash lying around makes an immediate impact. Tap water is unfit for consumption…so we always drank bottled water
One of India’s major problem is the lack of public toilets…and it turns out many homes do not have toilets either. No wonder I saw so many men relieving themselves on the side of the street…. I often wondered what women did as I did not see them.
One of the unusual things I saw was women sitting at the sides of the road, and forming cow pies from huge piles of manure…Yuup cow dung shaped into pies, which are then dried . I asked what did they do with them… they use them for fuel..yup home cooked meals prepared over cow dung ….not my idea of the start of a great meal. But in india to care for a cow is considered a sacred duty. Researching this I found that India’s cattle—yup the ones I saw everywhere having the run of the highways, villages, markets, homes, excrete more than 700 million tons of manure annually. Half is used as manure for the field and the other half is burned to provide heat for cooking. 9 out of 10 rural households use it for fuel.
Bottom line for me a fascinating country and an eye opening trip!!!