India Revisited

by Barbara Ann Oliver

I found a new internet cafe. The last one I was in was up some rickety steps in a little room that did not even have a ceiling fan. With temps in the 90’s, it was hot! On the way home, Francis, who went with me so I wouldn’t get lost, found this cafe, which has air conditioning and is much cheaper than the other one.

Today, I want to tell you a little about India. It is a city of 11-12 million people. They have a constant influx of people from villages throughout India. Needless to say, this has stretched their already limited resources.

There is a MacDonald’s close by, a Baskin Robins, a Domino’s Pizza and a Pizza Hut. More Indians have more disposable income to buy the kinds of things we buy in America. But abject poverty is always close by. With such a large population, there is no way that there can be enough jobs and housing for everyone. The government has tried, without success, to stop migration into the city.

Families will find a spot along a wall, and that becomes their home. I saw one lady on the sidewalk with an umbrella and a few little household articles. Her house was the umbrella. She just moved it around throughout the day to ward off the hot sun.

Water is in critically short supply. There is no longer freely running water. The city turns the water on at intervals, and you have to be ready to turn on your pumps and pump water into your storage tanks. If you don’t turn on your pumps at that time, you don’t get water for that day. This is for the people who have homes and storage tanks. I don’t know what the people living on the street do.

In spite of this and other problems, India has grown significantly. Thirty years ago, most of the traffic was buses, taxis, scooters, rickshaw scooters, and bicycles. Today, it is mostly buses (using natural gas – much less pollution), cars, and motorcycles. Yet, in a step backwards, they also have bicycle rickshaws, a concession which was made in an effort to supply jobs for incoming village people.

More people are living in nice homes and driving nice cars. The government has granted loans, which they had not done in the past. They have built large complexes further out of the city, and people buy their apartment within that building complex. Sort of like condos. We went to Sunny David’s place on Sunday, and it was really nice.

Clothing has also changed. In the cities, men gave up wearing traditional Indian garb in the middle part of the 20th century. Though the majority of women still wear traditional clothing, a lot of the younger women are wearing Western ware. Sari shops, which used to be everywhere, have converted to ready-made clothing. Thirty years ago, you could not find ready-made.

The other day, Betty took some cotton sheet material to a seamstress to make some pants for me and some pajamas for her. Later, we went to Defence Market (a big shopping area) and found ready-made pants for $1.00 and pjs for not much more! Now we are regretting the money we will have to pay the seamstress for stitching us some sheet-clothes!

The one thing that has not changed is the noise! Indians love to honk their horns. With the proliferation of cars and outrageous traffic conditions, they are honking fools! I wish I had a soundbite to share with you. They actually have no-honk zones. Technically, you are not supposed to honk within a 100 meters of a traffic light. If you do, a policeman can write your license number down and send you a ticket. Apparently, no one worries about that much, unless they see a policeman standing around!

Well, I am off to pick up my sheet-pants. More later.

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Barbara A Oliver

Barbara Ann Oliver has worked with the church in Costa Rica for many years and serves as the associate editor for Forthright Magazine.

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