India is a Land of Contradiction

I came to India to see how people here live – day to day. How important are commerce, religion, and family? What I’ve found is that India is not that different from Europe or the United States. Their concerns are the same as ours. Religion here ranges from the superficial to the profound; commerce is the engine that drives the country, and family is very important. I wasn’t sure what to expect and perhaps expecting something different was a little silly in hindsight. I tend to focus on commonality rather than differences but here are some differences:

  • The people here are incredibly curious – curious about everything. I’m a minority here and get lots of stares and smiles. When I am filming or taking pictures complete strangers walk up and want me to take their picture. It’s inexplicable to me.
  • There is no concept of waiting in line. There are so many people competing for attention that the solution is to just rush any service counter and push until you get to the front. It’s not considered rude – it’s just the way it is.
  • Traffic follows pretty much the same rules. If you can squeeze in between two lanes of traffic in the middle, go for it! Surprisingly, I’ve yet to see any serious accidents. There are dividing lines on the road but they are a complete waste of paint. There are also traffic lights but they are largely ignored unless a few police officers are directing traffic. The power grid goes down so often that you can easily understand why people ignore the traffic lights – most of the time they do not even work.
  • Poverty is everywhere. In fact, it is so ubiquitous that it’s easy to ignore. It appears the poorest people do not do most of the begging because they are busy doing whatever jobs they can find. The state hires street sweepers – not the big machines like in the US – to sweep the streets with straw brooms. They are everywhere sweeping away. In a dusty city like Delhi, it’s an endless job. I’ll have to write more about poverty later as I haven’t had a chance to really mentally process this side of India.
  • Construction is everywhere. You can see the tangible results of the massive influx of money into India. I am convinced India’s potential is yet to be tapped.
  • I’ve also discovered that there is no reason to learn Hindi if you want to do business in India. Everyone with a college education speaks English and there are enough signs in English that an American can easily find their way around. However, without knowing Hindi you really miss out on the heart of the culture. Most of the working class do not speak English and that’s the majority of the population – at least in Delhi. If you want to understand India, you’ll have to learn the language.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I will write more later…

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