Poverty in India is enormous, as are statements of status and opulence. It sometimes makes the income inequality in the US look insignificant (except that most of it in the U.S. is hidden from view). Nevertheless living in a country where the difference is so stark, visible and accepted, puts a very menacing face on the trend in the U.S. Americans don’t understand what the consequences will be of that kind of standard of living polarization.
In India real pollution is tolerated and symbolic pollution is not. Whether it’s a rape victim or your left hand, nothing is a greater insult to the high-minded (ie Brahmin class), and yet the alley and gutter are filled with stinking trash. It does take getting used to the smell. One block human feces, next block a cattle stall, next one sizzling curry.
It’s very difficult to keep up with infrastructure when things are growing so fast. This goes for indoor plumbing as well as streets and public transport. In the last decade Bangalore’s population has increased by 50%. California in contrast, which I’m unendingly disturbed by given the state of my Del Mar childhood home, is a mere 10% (it’s actually slowing from the past trends). There are so many cars, motorcycles, busses, Auto-rickshaws, bicycles, horse-drawn dredges, and push-carts that a weekend trip to the zoo on the outskirts of town from the center, a distance of 27 kilometers takes about 2 and a half hours.
Which brings me to the drivers - The Indian department of motor vehicles is charged with administering the driver’s license exam. It’s supposed to be a 12 minute test allowing each inspector to issue about 30 licenses per day, in theory. Statistics show that the actual number can be upwards of 5,000, yes thousand. The demand is so high and corruption so mundane.
I don’t mean all this to complain. I actually really enjoy living here there are so many wonderful and amazing things to appreciate. There’s the food, the communal religious diversity, the history and architecture, the sari’s and languages, the wildlife... It’s a vibrant society with such phenomenal potential in a global age but it is still very much experimenting with the integration of ancient, colonial and modern cultures. But, I do know that I’m not trapped and I don’t have to live here forever.