A day of relaxation in Deogarh
Trip Start Jan 12, 2008
171Trip End Oct 01, 2008
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This place is crowded. The second most populated country in the world and quickly on its way to #1 now that China has implemented various offspring restrictions. Infrastructure is in complete disrepair all over, including the big cities such as New Delhi and Agra. Dust is the norm and clear air is a real treat just as trash is common and a clean "street" is rare. Stray animals, dominantly cows and buffalo are everywhere and have the right of way even on the highways! People seem generally really happy, despite what we would believe is poor living conditions.
Everyone is selling something and they are good at selling things. Almost everyone is pushy about begging for money and/or pleading for us to buy something, however, they are quick to ask for a pretty penny for their goods. It seems there must be a lot of waste until you think about the sheer numbers of people who must live somewhere. I have a feeling that we've been guided away from the really bad areas that must mirror what I saw in South Africa, but the sprawl is certainly overarching.
Religion is more apparent in the culture than in the US. Temples are all over the place, and while they seem crowded, not many people are praying at closer look. Hindi people are supposed to go to temple twice a day and they may just do that, but the trips seem more of an obligation to show your face and offer a gift to the gods than one of self-imposed religious import. Many people walk in and out in less than 2 minutes and resume up with their cell phones the second they put their shoes back on. (You must remove your shoes when entering any temples, and what do you know, someone is there to "watch" your shoes for a "tip"!)
Modernization is evident in some areas as the hotels we are staying in are beautiful, even by western standards. Everything is well manicured and people are always at your beck and call. The food is quite good, despite the spices. The only issue, in my eyes, is that the staff is always seeking approval as well as a tip confirming the aforementioned approval. I've decided to draw the line at the following: when a waiter hands me my food and stands over me and asks me if my food is good within 2 seconds of taking my first bite... next time that happens I won't be as kind as the last time (today), when I graciously answered with my mouth still full, "I don't know but will tell you when I'm done with my first bite." Even as I write someone just swept the area around my feet because a few leaves fell from the tree above us in the last ten minutes!!!
One very interesting dynamic, that goes entirely unmentioned by any of the tour guides until prodding, is the relationship between Hindis and Muslims. It becomes quite apparent that there is a mutual dislike, to put it mildly, when our entirely Hindi counterparts describe the situation and relations. Today, the division is 80% Hindi and 15% Muslim in India (5% Jain, Christian, and other), although a majority of the Muslim population is situated in the North closer to Pakistan. I've learned that Pakistan was created to separate the Hindis and Muslims originally, and it was Ghandi who convinced the general public to allow Muslims to stay in what continued to be India. Now, it would seem that decision is regretted by many of the people, at least by those that we have spoken with. This struggle reaches back to when the Moghul empire conquered much of the region. After doing so, they desecrated much of the Hindu temples which is why most of the historical sites we have seen in the North have been Islamic.
All these are simply observations, but our discussions around the dinner table have been quite invigorating to say the least. Our wonderful day of relaxation and recovery (for me) ended with a nice hike back to the lake fort.
The walk lasted a good hour and a half and took us through some of the most remote little villages we have seen yet.
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