Saturday, November 12, 2011

The only thing worse than being poor is not being poor.

“See, the poor dream all their lives of getting enough to eat and looking like the rich. And what do the rich dream of? Losing weight and looking like the poor.” 

-Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger

The only thing worse than being poor is not being poor.
India is no longer filled with hippies sitting for extended periods of time in the lotus position trying to get halfway past the wheel of existence (well, not as many), but morons on a poverty-tourism adventure holiday. I know because I am one.
I came here to see the slums, the street kids, the legless beggars, the leper beggars, the women-carrying-dirty-babies beggars, and the I-can-make-more-money-putting-on-a-sad-sorry-face-in-Caucasoid-dense-travel-zones-than-through-honest-labor beggars. Cows get free reign, they’re everywhere, they’re always blocking traffic oblivious to the crescendo of car horns or acting in spite of them, picking through garbage, the plastic, Styrofoam and glass turning their bowel movements liquid and bloody and this is why I came here. To see gangs of scraggly dogs attack each other, to see the open wounds on their skulls exposing pink brain matter, each filthy and a haven for parasites. Even Udaipur, ‘India’s most romantic city’, is filled with these things, it’s lake filled with waste and garbage, it’s only romantic at sunset from the 6th floor of a hotel restaurant when dusk hides ‘the India’ from Udaipur.
Poverty-tourists, we sure get our rupees worth, and you hear it time and again. The sentence to sum up our Indian travels, the reason we came. “It just makes you realize how lucky we are.” Oh yes, there it is, Karma favors the Caucasoid.
To maintain this ‘realization’ avoid the British-influenced sections of New Delhi and the Punjabi capital of Chandigarh designed by a Swiss-French architect. Gifts from the white man, these areas are civil, orderly and largely devoid of cows. Surprise, surprise, people have money in these places and Pizza Huts follow. India’s un-Indian zones, you’ll even see bellies extending over beltlines. Also, don’t look too hard at the people you’re comparing your good fortune to. At first glance you’ll get exactly what you want, you’ll feel disgusting, defiled by your own good health and all the money in your pockets. Just make sure not to stick around to see them smile, move on before you hear them laugh, and Shiva forbid you spot a child curled up with his father on the ground at a train station at three in the morning looking so serene, so peaceful, that you’ll wonder if you’ve ever felt that sort of sincere, pure warmth this child with nothing radiates. 
Maybe he’s a child with everything that matters. 
Maybe I hate him, scorn his simple mind, ridicule his silly religion with its 3,600,000 gods, and loathe the way his heart chakra forms a bubble of warmth around the pair. I hate how his mere existence shows me what I’m missing, not only is my palate numb to the taste of the transcendental, the mere mention of it induces rage and hostility. I come from a society of such sophistication that when we hear the words ‘I love you’ it’s nothing more than a cliché, where affection and feelings are so passé. This boy, like so many other Indians, has the gall to exist in contra to my society of sophistication; he is, unquestionably, stupid, poor and possesses a strong reverence for cows excreting bloody liquid waste and here I am, now in Dharamsala, thinking maybe he’s one of the lucky ones. 
Damn it. I shouldn’t have stuck around so long, my poverty-tourism adventure has are-the-Greeks-really-going-to-abandon-the-Euro? backfired. Guess it’s time to grow a beard, pierce my nipples and assume the lotus position. 
Keep drifting.

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