我到印度的原因是因为我参加了Aiesec Global Community Development Program （GCDP），特地到印度的盲人院为当地盲人，智障人士，聋哑人服务。
可是印度就不一样，因为他们的文化保留的非常好。除了被西方文化感染的两大城市孟买和新德里，其他26个州属都还是保留着各自的文化。我去的阿摩达巴是印度第五大城市--就像是马来西亚的古晋吧。我选择印度就是想体验它独特的文化，而我也想要去旅游的同时为社会一些残障人士出一份力。还有我觉得热门专案--Global Village， Project Worldview--让我们学习不多新东西。你就顶多认识多几个外国人以及他们的一些简单的习俗，而这些都能够在古歌上读到的东西啊。可是当你融入当地社会服务人群时，你就会真正的与当地人交流，学习。我曾经说过：The true essence of backpacking is not about the number of places you've been to; it's about you stopping at those places and truly experience 'em。就比如我必须每天搭巴士去盲人院，自己搭巴士或走路去城市，景点，自己点菜，自己吃路边摊，而这些当地人65%都不会讲英文，你就必须学一些简单的当地话，或者用手语与他们沟通。
在印度的一个月里，我每天吃的就是饭 + Chapati + 咖喱菜。阿摩达巴是个素食城市，大部分的人都吃素。而他们的素食是不包括青菜的--他们的素食是吃长在土里的，或黄色的植物，比如番薯，木薯，马铃薯，包菜，萝卜等。
而且他们也非常喜欢 Masala--Masala 是一种带有咖喱味的香料。他们什么都要放 Masala--菜，饭，面包，花生，零食，就连奶茶和咖啡都要放 Masala。你自己想一想如果奶茶有咖喱味会是怎样的。我第一次喝到他们的奶茶就差点吐了出来，不过喝着喝着就习惯了，甚至还买了奶茶 Masala 回来马来西亚自己冲来喝。如果你们想品尝印度奶茶就来我这里吧~。
第三就是时间观念/不守信用。比如说十一点开始，一定会拖到十二点。比如说今天来见我，我就不必特地等他，还可以安心睡觉，因为他们肯定不会来。比如他说 “I will make sure you get it by today or tomorrow", 你可以肯定要等上一个星期。台湾朋友 Max 等他的电话 SIM 卡等了三个星期。
When I first set my eyes upon Ahmedabad from the aircraft, I was surprised by the lack of shimmering light in the city. It is the fifth largest city in India and home to around 5.57 million people, and yet a huge part of the city is covered in darkness. Where are the infrastructures? The streets of Ahmedabad are poorly lit and the roads are full of potholes. Where are the engineers? We have potholes on our Malaysian road too but hey, you will lost count the number of potholes in Ahmedabad alone. The city is 3.42 times more populous than Kuala Lumpur. If Kuala Lumpur has three railway services in addition of multiple bus services, then the people of Ahmedabad deserve more than just the BRTS, which doesn't even provide service to the airport and many parts of Ahmedabad. The public transport sector, in a nutshell, is rather primitive.
I know all these don't make sense because I'm comparing Kuala Lumpur against Ahmedabad instead of Delhi or Mumbai. But even if I'd made a comparable match, say Kuching vs Ahmedabad, Kuching would still emerge victorious hands down.
The Indians are fiercely outspoken people. The erudite are intrepid and they openly voice out their discontentment whenever they can.
This seemingly noble character, however, can sometimes go awry.
There was a case reported in the newspaper about a group of engineering students protesting for the withdrawal of scholarship by their university. As they marched towards the Chancellor's office, students from other faculties joined in the "fun" and together they formed an intimidating group. When the chancellor let the students into his office, he found out that a majority of them were actually students who had nothing to do with the scholarship at all.
Does this sound like some of us who had been to some demonstration without fully knowing the reasons behind the protest?
The caste system is still very much alive in India, and you could still see dalits everywhere. Wait, who are the dalits? The dalits are the lowest group of people in the Indian caste system, and they make up a quarter of India's 1.2 billion population. In 70% of India’s villages, non-dalits will not eat or drink with dalits. Traditionally, when dalits enter a tea shop and request for a cup of tea, they will be served in a clay cup rather than a glass or metal cup that others receive. After drinking their tea, they are expected to crush the cup on the ground so that other people won't risk being polluted by the cup the dalit touched. And because of that they are termed "the untouchable" and are so poor they could just defecate right beside the road. Ironically you can see them living in makeshift tents along the road heading towards the biggest mall in Ahmedabad.
Whenever I saw a dalit I couldn't help but wonder why should anyone be allowed to suffer the indignity of sleeping alongside cow manure and other human waste? Is the government oblivious to their suffering? They live under precarious circumstances, burning every bit of combustible material collected from landfills--wood, rubbish, and even plastic--for cooking and keeping warm, and their children inhale the toxic gases from the burning of rubbish and passing vehicles.
But the dalits are not the only one who are poor. An article I read in the local newspaper reported that Muslims in India live on less than INR 32.66 a day, which translates to roughly RM 1.55 per day. That's not even half a meal in Kuala Lumpur, barely enough for a glass of Teh Ais nowadays. The Indian national survey revealed that roughly one in four Indians live below the poverty line.
Okay, let me tell you why is this significant.
Of the 100 richest people in the world, three hail from India. In India itself there are 61 billionaires with a minimum net worth of well over a billion. And there are hundreds or perhaps thousands of millionaires out there. Then when we turn our attention to the streets we see millions of hungry mouths waiting to be fed in temples all across India. This is the consequence of unbalanced distribution of the country's wealth, and it is causing more and more social problem--gang rape and robbery for example--to its people. Capitalism, what can I say?
There's no denying that some of these billionaires have worked their socks off to achieve what they have today. But there are also some who rely on corruption and bribery--something India is rather famous for--and thus contribute to the gap between the rich and the poor. And the gap keeps widening. It's so huge now you can fit a blue whale in between and still have plenty of space for a giant squid and an African elephant.
And while the rich people of India are comparable to the rest of the world, raking in billions of dollars in cash, the middle class citizens are actually earning much less compared to the middle class of other countries. An average software engineer in Ahmedabad earns a meager INR 300,000 a year--that's roughly RM 1400 per month. One could argue that the low salary is compensated by the low cost of living in India--for instance taking a trip on a bus costs only INR 4~INR 20, and a plate of powa costs only INR 25--but the prices of branded goods, for example Apple and Samsung products are similar to what we pay in Malaysia. It is therefore extremely difficult if not impossible for the middle class to afford an iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Adidas, or other international brands. Their low pay forces them to rely heavily on local brands such as Micromax, Tata, Bajaj, and several other brands, and hence the rich can continue to tap from the second biggest consumer market in the world without the need to upgrade themselves due to the lack of competition. With a population twice the combined population of all the ASEAN countries, keeping the local brands popular guarantees the continual growth of economy (and fattens the cronies) while reduces import. This makes India a successful version of North Korea--fully capable of self-sustain and self-manage--even if one day the WTO decided to shun India, the Indian industries would probably just laugh it off.
Apart from acting as a huge consumer market, overpopulation has also cost the Indians the luxury of space. The house that I stayed in India is home to 30 occupants. The traffic is a horrible mixture of rickshaws, buses, cars, bikes, and bicycles. And if you prefer to walk, get ready to step on the horrendous soup of dirt + mud + rubbish + cow + dogs + human poop. The traffic lights, if they existed at all, weren't functioning. And even if they functioned the impatient locals wouldn't wait for it to turn green before crossing. Arranged marriage still persists, and dating serves no purpose because at the end of the day you still go home and marry whoever your parents want you to marry.
At the end of my program I became rather worn out and tired. And I foolishly thought I would never miss Malaysia. I headed to India with the spirit of a backpacker, but returned feeling like a prodigal son. The experience itself was pleasant, but the way of life in India has drained the life out of me; the way the locals stared at me--they are intrepid and vocal, remember?--whenever I took the bus somehow annoyed me. And their punctuality and efficiency at work have much room for improvement.
Given a chance, I would definitely return to India again, but not for anything longer than two weeks. India has taught me a lot about the real world, the cruelty of life, Krishna, and that no place is better than home. Seriously I left out an immense sigh of relief the moment I arrived in Singapore and then, Malaysia. Surviving India unscathed (seriously, what could possibly go wrong? Like the 2002 terrorist bombing of Akshardham? Duhh...) has given me confidence--lots of it--because experiencing India is like looking at humanity in the eyes-kindness, humility, deceit, hubris-and it better prepares me to face the world.
Incredible India indeed.