Tuesday, 1 January 2008

HAPPY NEW YEAR


Happy New Year and my best wishes to everyone for 2008. This year, as well as the new look I have created for this blog, I have resolved to enhance my understanding of global cultures. My family and I have just returned from a Christmas spent travelling in South West India where we have been forced to acknowledge the enormous gaps in our knowledge. I hope you will bear with me as I indulge this blog with our experiences.

India is a country of many contrasts and our guide was keen to provide statistics. From these I learned that 85% of marriages there are arranged but the numbers are falling whilst the divorce rate, which is currently 10%, is rising. To what extent the two are connected I have no desire to speculate, although I predict that as India becomes more and more westernised that divorce rate will inevitably increase.

For the present it remains a country where the vast majority of the population continue to live in poverty. It has a population of 1 billion people and after China is the largest developing country in the world and host for many of the UK’s much maligned call-centres. Despite its reputation for prospering on the back of I.T. it is estimated that only 10% of the population have a washing machine and half that number a car; 26% of urban households do not have running water and 9% no electricity. In the countryside, where the majority of people still live, these figures are higher; water is generally drawn from wells and only 47% have electricity. Even in the socialist state of Kerala in which we travelled and where Communist initiatives have resulted in 95% literacy and the lowest infant mortality rates in India, the physically disabled and ragged orphans still congregate outside churches, temples and railway stations. Many locals collect water from standpipes in the streets and rely on rivers and backwaters for washing dishes and clothes. Litter abounds especially in Kochi where clearance appeared to amount to a series of small fires at the roadside. Migrant families from other states sleep rough amongst the piles of rubbish on waste-ground, their few possessions spread around them.

We spent our final night at a hotel on a beach overlooking the Arabian Sea. Whenever a tourist ventured onto the sand, local children asking for money came buzzing like the indigenous fly population. You can’t give to them all and any alms must therefore be given discreetly.

I was left with an overall sense of sadness at my inability to do anything effective to alleviate the situation. How long will it be before everyone in India can expect to benefit from basic standards of sanitation and how politically can a country with so many people move towards such a goal within a realistic timescale?

Witnessing the deprivation forced us to appreciate what we have and to know that however bad life can feel at times, it could be thousands of times worse.

3 comments:

Gauri Deshpande said...

Anything good to say about your vacation or about India?

Judith said...

Plenty - I can't stop talking about it - so do keep reading!

Keala said...

Happy New Year to you as well. I am happy you are enjoying India.