Uncivilized India

So far, pretty much everything I’ve had to say about India has been easy to categorize as praise.  It’s not perfect, though.  In one way in particular… Uncivilized India is gross, overwhelming, too strong to ignore.  Uncivilized India is a country of littering.  And littering is a weak, polite word for an action that, en masse, leads to a river so choked with plastic bottles that the dead cow only shows a bit of bloated belly, otherwise hidden, coated, covered by Pepsi, Mirinda, 7-Up, Aquafina, etc, etc, etc.  The strange foil packets of tobacco flakes, breath mints, who knows what – they pile up in cracks and fill the potholes in the road. People are constantly sweeping the sidewalks and street edges, but they cannot keep up with the flood of trash dropped, tossed, unconsidered by a billion people.  Who are the sweepers?  Are they of one caste?  Are they disappearing with the caste system?  Will the beauty of India drown in its trash as the habit of centuries, the reliance on “someone else” to clean for you, becomes a habit based on an old, out of date understanding of the way of things? It’s happening.  But a country that opens trash bags to find what’s usable should be able to move toward recycling.  Right?

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The Beautiful, The Cynical and the Spectacle

(The Beautiful) The smell of India, wow! I cannot accurately explain how wonderful the smells of India are simply because of my lack of descriptive prowess and the fact that I don’t think English is a language that is built to describe the things that are in the air of India! I mean, saying something like, it smells like the combination of thousand year old incense, curry and four thousand years of passionate tears falls short by orders of magnitude, really! 5 hours of waiting in a train station sitting on a marble bench now feels normal but when we left Mumbai’s Central Terminus bound for Delhi my ass was in the special hell reserved for court clerks and meter-maids. We boarded the Rajdhani Express in the 2/AC car (meaning, two bunks on each side top and bottom facing two more and the car was air conditioned) and immediately made ourselves comfortable. Sitting directly across from me was an older gentleman of Indian decent that commented on my Didgereedoo and asked me for a visual inspection. I started to do my standard explanation of what it was but he stopped me short by telling me what it was and where it was from. My response was a simple ‘yes’ and he began to tell me the story of his life by starting simply with, “I am a musician and a teacher…” His name is Ustad Mohammad Sayeed Kahn and he is the 50th master of Rhaga singing in his family line, he is also the tragic end of that line of great singers. Over the next 6 hours (of on-and-off eating) he told us the story of the 400 years of his family and art and how the dynamics of rhaga music are the dynamics of life itself. He was[…]

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