Imagine a place where there are so many religions that it requires two bank holidays in one week (this week it was Muharan (muslim) and Guru Nanak Jayanti (sikkh). Imagine a place where there are street names but no street signs, no child carseats, no pedestrian signals, no speed limits. Imagine a place where it is common to see a family of five on one motorcycle! No one wears helmets.
Our drive to Aurangabad was plagued with billboards selling dreams to Indians. Massive garbage heaps lay under billboards selling luxury condos and resorts in total misalignment of the reality of the day to day morass of Indian life. Rahul calls this the bubble and I’m beginning to understand this culture more and more as the days pass. Those who are privileged (including us!) move from one bubble to the next without fully recognizing the chaos and grime that is everywhere. As more and more indians become successful, more and more bubbles pop up. The theory is that those bubbles will soon become the new Indian reality. One of the problems with that is that with endemic problems still in place like class disparities and environmental unconsciousness, the bubbles will only magnify the extremity of the situation.
Speaking of the environment, India really needs an environmental movement. Cities are clogged with cars. From my perspective, there is almost no regulation. On the bright side, on our drive through farm country to Aurangabad, I saw several wind turbines. But there is so much more to do. Rahul and I think that India should be a giant solar farm. Maybe with the new “Clean India” campaign of new Prime Minister Nerendra Modi there will be more action of that kind. Rahul recounted a story he heard from a driver who drove two western women in his car. They asked him to take them to a massive garbage pile where they took pictures of it. After telling this story he asked Rahul why they would want to take a picture of that and added, “Isn’t it like that in America?” The driver thought that garbage piles were a normal part of life everywhere.
I can’t decide whether Indians are accepting or resigned to the situation but there is definitely a general philosophy that life is fluid, not a battlefield. When things don’t work out it just means it didn’t work out in the way you imagined it to be. In the words of one of our hosts, “I’m sure it will work out in the end, it always does in India.”
Whenever I ask Rahul why something is a certain way he always answers with, “what country are we in?”