Sunday, January 14, 2007

Day 9: Agra to Delhi to Bangalore (long day!)

Sunday, January 7, 2007. 8:10 PM IST (Indian Standard Time). I am tired of riding on a bus! We spent approximately 5 hours on the bus today transiting from Agra to Delhi so that we could catch a flight from Delhi to Banaglore. Why we couldn’t just fly from Agra to Bangalore? I have no idea – but my guess is it would have been the easy thing to do. Oh well…more scenery of India. Seeing the country has been an eye-opening experience for me. As I mentioned earlier, the country is one of extremes. The extreme that has begun to hit me is the poverty. If you are upset by what is occurring in India and don’t wish to read about the poverty, you may want to check back again tomorrow.

There are children and disabled people begging just about everywhere you walk. Obviously there are exceptions and we have been visiting more touristy places; but still, I’ve never been faced with such a human condition. For India to become a developed country there will need to be something done to support the 25% of the population living below the poverty line. Oh, and just in case you were not aware, that 25% is approximately equal to the population of the United States. Yes, the population of India is 1.3 billion – a number that means very little until and unless you see it in person.

There are children on the streets forced by their parents to ask for money. After all, pity and guilt are emotions more easily conjured than when an adult begs from you, right? What about the games? The begging if often not because the family is homeless or starving, but rather a way to make a living. You could give the child on the corner a 100 rupee bill ($2.25USD) and it’d be like giving the begger in the US a $20 bill. I’ve seen many different schemes – it is touch because I feel sorry for those in real need, but skepticism has set in. For example, I saw a boy of about 8 on the street last night. Here I am sitting in the comfortable bus and there he is standing outside with a bandage on his limp hand with a bloody spot on the bandage. Poor child. He seemed all along, but then his brother and sister joined him at the encouragement of their mother in the distance. Wait… what is on their hands? They all have the same limp hand bandaged with a bloody spot in the same place. Or the big sister sitting out of site with her laser pointer, targeting her young sister’s next victim. “Please sir, sir, sir.” She says as she moves her cupped hand from her mouth to her stomach. Games! Then there is the man who has to hobble around without legs and is tapping at my foot and pulling on my pants for a bit of spare change. It is a pity that giving money would only incite a riot and the masses would descent on me or whoever gives even a rupee. Remember – 25% of 1.3 billion – they are everywhere. By 2020, this number will need to reduce as part of the president’s plan to see India become a developed nation.

It’s true, it is sad. But we will be doing something productive for the poor. In Bangalore, we will be going out to a village where we'll visit Shanti Bhavan which is a school organized and run by the George Foundation. The school has invited us to attend an assembly and lunch. I’ll share more about the visit to Shanti Bhavan and the George Foundation next week.