Monday, May 30, 2005

India it is

India’s pretty intriguing. Even for Indians.

When you travel the length and breadth of the country (which I haven’t) I guess you’ll be surprised every inch. The latest incident that surprised me was the episode involving the rickshaws.

I remember traveling in rickshaws in Madurai during my initial school days – when I was maybe ten years old. That was the age when you don’t really know what sympathy means. All I wanted back then was a game of cricket every evening before crashing into the bed. I was then was transported to richer places like Coimbatore and Chennai (occasionally) and Bangalore. I almost forgot about the existence of rickshaws coz there were none in these places. Almost 12 years later, I traveled in rickshaws that are driven by men – sans motors – in Delhi and I’m pained. Not that I didn’t know about its existence, but traveling in them was like really tough all of a sudden.

A couple of us took the Delhi metro for the first time this weekend. It was AWESOME. It beats most of the metros that I’ve seen in Hollywood movies. The thing works like a breeze – with zilch noise and terrific acceleration. The whole station, metro, escalator – everything – is clean like crazy. Hell, you wouldn’t believe you are in India. It just costed seven bucks for like a 7 Km ride. I wouldn’t’ve minded paying 35 bucks! Once you are out of the metro, you see the rickshaws. Loads of them. I’ve come to realize that this is the first thing that strikes a foreigner. A life of contrasts. Five star hotels, and rusted vehicles outside. 1st class trains and platforms filled with people without shelter. Flashy cars and bullock carts squeezing for the same space. The place we wanted to go was two streets away, and we didn’t want to walk in the Delhi afternoon sun. Rickshaws seemed to be the answer. I couldn’t believe that we were going to take a rickshaw. We hesitated to walk, and are we going to make that guy pedal a huge thing with two bullies inside? Sounded like the 1900 master-slave culture. I really couldn’t make up my mind. But not using the rickshaws would also mean no business for those folks. My friend said: “Well, this is India, and this is their livelihood. Let’s take it. Give them some business”. I gave in. I couldn’t convince myself that not traveling in it was a solution, simply because it wasn’t. It was one of those moments that really put you on hold with no way to go.

It was even more painful to see the guy pedaling on slopes. He literally had to put the whole body load on the pedal. Fortunately, the road was pretty much even throughout, and that saved him. We didn’t have to get down either. I gave him 15 bucks instead of the 10 bucks as agreed. I really don’t know why I did it. My extra five bucks isn’t a solution to anything. We aren’t going to change India through charity. But still, it kind of gave a satisfaction. Maybe I thought he deserved it.

Even worse was the next incident. We were walking along a small pavement with soft drink bottles in hand. The place was pretty rotten and smelling real bad. We were pretty much scrambling out of the place when a rag kid asked us some alms. We were in no mood to give charity. After realizing that we aren’t going to give him anything, he cursed us… loud enough for us to know. I was pretty depressed for a moment. For such kids, it’s almost a right to claim for alms. Wonder what that kid would become if he grows up. It would be no surprise if he goes out of the way. For him, it’s just his life and everything he does is justified. You really can’t straighten out guys these later after having grown up in an ambience like this.

All this makes me think of another issue. Lots of people I know give alms, which is a short term solution to a long term problem. A lot of them don’t because they believe alms would just encourage these folks. For me though, it remains a tough question. For once, both parties seem right.


At Monday, May 30, 2005 6:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nicely put govar....however in't this whole symphathy business based on the behaviour of the person concerned. ya....if he's servile, we feel so sorry for him. That changes instantly if he tries to act smart or clever. So what are we symphathising then?? his servility or his poverty? hmmmm

At Tuesday, May 31, 2005 10:56:00 AM, Blogger Jammy said...

Good one Govar. You reminded me of such incidents that I encountered. I remember taking a rickshaw in Gurgaon last year after about 15 years. It made me feel the same way as u did. btw, my last rickshaw trip before that was in Chennai, the place where u hadn't found one ;)
Regarding giving alms, I'm among those who'd prefer not to encourage such practices

At Tuesday, May 31, 2005 11:41:00 AM, Blogger Govar said...

@Anonymous: Poverty makes me sympathetic

@Jammy: Hmm... So CHennai has rickshaws? Surprising I havent noticed them...

At Tuesday, May 31, 2005 2:13:00 PM, Blogger ada-paavi!!!! said...

givin alms and stufff, is like a short term solution, but more importantly we feel helpless and by givin alms or the extra 5 bucks, as u did, we feel like we have done someting. is giving more money enough? agreed india is a country of contrasts, luis vutton is being sold here, and so are millions starving, think there is a great divide in india, the class divide, and the well off are blind to the not so well off,

u in iimb? class of 06 means u finish in 06?

At Tuesday, May 31, 2005 2:27:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

@Srivatsan: Helpless... we sure are. Thats what sympathy is about. And no, Im in IIMI.. IIM Indore. Will finish in 2006.

At Tuesday, May 31, 2005 6:01:00 PM, Blogger Rahul said...

Good thoughts Govar.

Can't really say which side I am, when it comes to giving alms. I don't mind giving few bucks to an elderly bum.

At Tuesday, May 31, 2005 7:32:00 PM, Blogger N said...

Wanna see worse? The rickshaws n Kolkata are the worst. There they don't even have pedals and stuff. The men pull the entire rickshaw while they run between crazy traffic. Its nearly the most inhuman thing that I've seen.

Makes you feel so goddamn helpless, doesn't it? But honestly, what CAN we do? Is there anything that we can do to change this? I really don't know.

At Wednesday, June 01, 2005 11:06:00 AM, Blogger Govar said...

@Rahul: That is... similar to what I do. Kinda helples.s

@Neeta: Yep. Heard a lot about that stuff. To the question whether we can do something to chcange this. I guess the only way is to make the country becoming developing, for which we can definitely contribute our ounce... say by providing employment.. not necessary to these folks. Trickle down effect does work.

At Wednesday, June 01, 2005 12:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"a short term solution to a long term problem".. Govar, this is the term used in "Rich dad, Poor dad" to describe a job :-). Campus pe aaja, ill debate with you on this issue while playing CS. Atleast, debating should take the sting out of getting your ass kicked in the game ;-) .. just kidding da!

So when r u guys touching campus??

At Wednesday, June 01, 2005 12:58:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

@Kida: Ahem. I thought we were on the same clan. :) Campus on 13th night. Cant wait to play with real guys... Bots are a bore.

At Thursday, June 02, 2005 12:37:00 AM, Blogger saurabh ohri said...

nice way of cmaparing things(metro and rusty rickshaws)..surely opposites exist in this world.

regarding rickshaw wallas i think since im accustomed to see them for a long time i have started feeling that its their profession and if we dont pay them who else will


At Thursday, June 02, 2005 11:16:00 AM, Blogger Govar said...

@Saurabh: The whole point of the post was to convey that opposites are stark in 'India'.

At Sunday, June 05, 2005 12:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

India it is ... at least in offshoring.. Want to know more about the workings of Offshoring Management?
Why not check out my forthcoming book::
Mohan, author:

At Sunday, May 21, 2006 6:06:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

I have a race cars site/blog. It pretty much covers ##KEYWORD## related stuff.

Come and check it out if you get time :-)

See Ya There!!!

At Monday, September 19, 2011 1:25:00 PM, Anonymous Outsourcing Company said...

Great work Govar to describe your traveling experiences in this blog. I have a desire to visit India in my early free time. I want to take experience of both traveling in a rickshaw and Delhi metro as well. your experiences will help me in the future.


Post a Comment

<< Home