India - Where Donkeys are Free !
|The taxi driver took us up a dark, narrow street
and dropped us
off near the Guest House where we had made reservations before our
departure. It was now 1:30 a.m. To our surprise, the door was locked
and the lights were out. Suddenly I questioned the wisdom of making
reservations based on information listed in a travel guide. Finally,
the owner of the guest house came to the door and gave us the bad news.
"You said you would be here by 11:00 p.m.!," the owner said.
"But our plane came in late," I pleaded.
"Too late," said the owner, "I have no room left!"
Thus began our months stay in Northern India during the month of
November and early December.
Two men appeared out of the dark.
"I will find you a place to stay," one of them said, while the
other offered to carry our bags.
A feeling of insecurity began to creep into my consciousness. I
remembered a friend back home asking, when I announced my travel plans,
"arent you afraid someone will knock you in the head?"
The men lead us through a network of narrow allies, while we
tried unsuccessfully at two other establishments to find a nights
lodging. Eventually we made it to a guest house where we found a
vacancy. I was very happy to give the man and hefty tip. Within
minutes, we were asleep.
When the sun rose the next morning, it illuminated a strange, new
New Delhi was a noisy placemotorized rickshaws, taxis, trucks, cows on
the streets, ox drawn wagons, and merchants begging for attention. But,
most of all, we saw Indias most common form of lifepeople. A sea of
everywhere we looked.
There were things about India that were not pretty, but there
were also other things of great beauty.
Amid, garbage, rats, extreme smog, dirty water, and beggars, there
exists a people with innate beauty and intrinsic value which is hard to
The people seem to know that they have to work together to make
it through life. No one seems to make any progress with out help from a
number of other people.
This aspect of Indian life often leads to extreme bureaucracy.
For example restaurants seemed to employ 4 times more people than were
necessary to accomplish even the smallest task. Even so, we never got
our meal in less that one hour. Sometimes, my wife would be served and
finished eating her meal before mine was ever served. Even small
processes are handled by a number of employees.
At one fast food restaurant, I paid one man for a sandwich then
got a little piece of paper which I had to hand to another man. The
second man standing only one step away from the first, gave me the
sandwich. Next I purchased another "ticket" to obtain a beverage, and
again negotiated the chain of command to receive the goods. While it is
unfair to compare another culture to our own, I thought most folks back
home would probably get as frustrated as I often did. India is what it
is. When one is there, one must do what the Indians do.
During the four week stay, I often wondered what the people back home
would think and say if they saw and experienced the things that I did.
I wondered what people in Oconee county would think of the fact
that men in India often hold hands in public. Of course many would say
that this is somehow related to homosexuality. Yet, the longer I was
there, the more I realized that it is not. Young boys and teenage boys
hold hands as well as middle aged and old men. Girls and women hold
hands, too. Only rarely did I see a male and female holding hands.
When I did see them, they were usually other tourists.
My wife pointed out two policemen holding hands. I could not
help but wonder what people back home would say if two Oconee County
deputies were seen holding hands as they walked down a street.
A short time ago, newspapers all over the world published
stories about how Indian citizens in Delhi rioted and damaged a theater
where a movie depicting homosexuality was showing.
One day, we hired a car and driver and left Delhi traveling to
Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal. For many people across the world, the
Taj is India.
It exceeded all expectations! This is one wonder that lives
up to its reputation. As I sat on a ledge surrounding the main
building, I could see the worn edges of huge slabs of marble. They were
undoubtedly worn down by millions of bare feet passing this same spot
over the centuries.
The details of what I saw in India are already beginning to
fade. But, I will never forget the stark scenes I saw one night near
Our car came to a stop in the pitch black dark of night. A
mass of vehicles were jammed together as they waited to drive over a
The air was thick with smoke and exhaust fumes so that our car lights
could only illuminate figures as they passed by our front window. One
by one different images passed in front of us, like postcards from India
or a slide show.
A huge oxen passed straining to pull its wagon load, and
there were big camels and small camels passing. Donkeys passed, and
there were goats, sheep, water buffalo, big cows and people, all mixed
with vehicles of every size and shape. People with stern faces and
handkerchiefs to protect themselves from the thick dust that rose high
into the night sky.
I was surprised to find scenes that reminded me of Biblical
passages. Shepherds with long staffs, tended flocks in the country
side. Dark skinned people guiding camels over dry sand, men dressed like
Wise Men, women dressed in bright and beautiful saris that brightened
even the darkest scene. The ancient pink city of Jaipur with its many
gates and palaces was charming. We bought so much, it will have to be
shipped in January. Quality and workmanship there, and everywhere in
India, is high. we were astounded by the low prices.
Once we stopped at a roadside stand to eat and relax from the
long drive undertaken that day. As we sat at an outdoor table beneath
the shade of a tree, I saw five donkeys cross the lot and wander out to
the middle of a busy highway. They were attracted to clumps of grass on
the median. "Where is their owner?," I asked the waiter.
"Sir, the donkeys are free!," he said.