Today, we went for a walk in a little green area of Pune which served as a timely reminder of all that I dislike about in India. We were walking up Parvati Hill and wanted to explore one of the little paths that meandered off to the side. Normally (by this I mean in the UK and Europe) this would be a perfectly reasonable idea but not so straight forward in India. Having taken a few steps along the path I stepped (with my sandals) in what I thought was a muddy puddle only to find out that it was something of a similar texture but not as whimsical. Realizing what I’d done I proceeded to attempt to rub it off in the plentiful supply of damp grass around only to step in another pile of this substance hidden under the grass. In short we were walking through a minefield of human diarrhea! That is to say that any path off the beaten track is seen as fair game for the slum dwellers when it comes to their choice of toilet location meaning one can’t really enjoy a pleasant stroll through a precious bit of greenery in the city.
Lack of respect and value for the environment and nature is one thing but it doesn’t stop there. I find a real lack of respect between human beings in India which manifests in countless ways. The nonchalant and rude manner in which workers (especially low caste ones) are dealt with, by their employers and the public alike, in places such as hotels and restaurants is difficult to understand coming from the west. Then there’s this ‘life or death’ attitude towards anything and everything. I’ve seen large crowds of waiting men, aged between 40 and 60, on a station platform in mumbai chasing a train as it pulls in and all recklessly dive through the doors simultaneously (which are left open on mumbai trains), before the train has come close to stopping, barging others to the floor in the process just in order to get seats for their commute home. It is laughable to see really but somehow the aggression and intent on their faces made me feel sick watching it. Similarly, in longer haul train scenarios I’ve seen women fighting each other for the chance to jump onto the incoming train and cling desperately to the closed doors (as many women as can safely hang from the handle bars by the door, one behind the other, that is) while the train pulls in, again so that they can get seats when the doors eventually open. Whilst at an Indian classical music concert in the supposedly posh/cultured Nehru Centre I’ve seen the mid to upper class, supposedly well mannered folk of Mumbai turn into an angry mob as I was caught up in a storm to get the last samosas on offer in the cafe during the concert interval while the poor stressed staff members faced abuse and orders from 50 different directions. I could go on but suffice it to say that wherever you can imagine any sort of queuing scenario in the west, you get an angry mob slash survival of the fittest attitude here in India and it bugs me that the only way to function here is to follow the adage “If you can beat them join them”.
Dealing with this side of India can be a bit draining but thankfully I’ve got other things I want to see and do to drive me on on this journey here in India. We’ve decided not to go to Kerala in the end and focus our energies on the north for the remainder of this trip so we’ll be heading up to Rajasthan after Pune and then onto Punjab where we started to complete some unfinished business which was put to a halt by the unbearable heat in May. I’m really looking forward to Rajasthan as I think it really is quite a unique place and culture within India.
In the meantime Pune is turning out to be just what the doctor ordered so to speak. We’ve got a lovely 5 bedroom modern house on the river front (for the pricey sum of £14 a night) all to ourselves, due to it being the off-season, meaning we can even buy and cook our own food and settle our stomachs somewhat. Having some simple, clean, home cooked food is a real luxury and was long overdue I tell ya!
The incessant rain and grey skies here are reminding me of London somewhat where ironically I hear there’s a heatwave. Not complaining as the temperature here is very pleasant indeed, not to hot and not too cold, just right I dare say, however humidity is uncomfortably high at the moment meaning one puts on damp clothes in the morning.
Here’s the picture from the back of our house. Not bad, eh?
And here’s a mini tornado I noticed over Pune this evening… a tornado of mosquitos that is!