Ears! Eyes! Nose! Skin! Every sense, every part of me was getting the full blast of India. Pollution, beeping horns, blistering sun! But do you know what… this is what I had come for, this is why I travel! Not to rely on books or television. I travel to experience the reality.
In the modern media of today there has often been many channels promoting the wonder & mystery of Asia’s southeast, from famous chefs to comedic actresses, everyone seems to be singing the praises of this colourful country.
Sadly I cannot join in with this media chorus of compliments. Rightly said, it is a very colourful and exuberant country with mass variety of culinary delights, music & chanting reigning out over the cities and not forgetting the beautiful clothing that can be seen worn by some of the richer classes. However there is an extreme and more rife side to this historic land of spice & colour.
- Raw sewage flowing freely through the streets
- Children with no footwear carrying naked babies begging
- Mothers with acid mutilated faces from abusive partners or shamed families
- Dead bodies being ceremoniously dumped in the Ganges where all cattle are also allowed to bath, drink & defecate.
The “Mother Ganges” is meant to be a source of all life & fertility. To clean the body & soul of all impurities, yet why are they treating it in such an obscene way. Hospitals with no sanitation or sterilization (70% of all pregnant women don’t make it through labour)
However one thing struck me harder than any of these despicable living conditions was the apparent need & erection of a security metal detector slap bang in the middle of the brick leaden streets. The words ‘style over substance’ springs to mind.
First the basic essentials of well being & living need to be addressed rather than just doing things that to the outside world are deemed important
Each year the Uttar Pradesh government spends crores (10,000,000+) on construction and maintenance of sanitation facilities for the public. But one visit to the Varanasi and you can clearly see that money is going down the drain.
On a more personal level, I was also to experience first hand how discriminatory & primitive this county still is. Having organised my flights, transfers, visas & health aspects to exact requirements I then put my faith in a tour guide employed by a certain Canadian tour operator to guide me around this vast country. I had traveled with this company many times through various other countries over the years, so assumed this tour would be equally safe & enjoyable.
Our first stop was Rishikesh, up in the north area of the Ganges near the Himalayas and where the water is at its cleanest & coldest 🙂 This is also a alcohol & meat free area, which I guess is why I was even more surprised to see our local guide ask our taxi driver to stop in a dark, deserted village and proceed to get off the vehicle, go into someones shack and come out with a bottle of gin! Obviously this wasn’t legal but assumed there must be a different agreement as I know there is allot of corruption that riddles these third world countries.
The following day we sailed further down the Ganges to a camp site. As I ventured down to the shoreline to wash my feet, the tour guide followed me and proceeded to ask me how many people I had slept with and why wouldn’t I sleep with him. Further intimate, skin crawling questions ensued to the point where it wasn’t only the smell of the dank water that made me want to throw up!
An inquiry had opened up in Delhi about this man, my fellow travellers were asked for statements and the tour guide was eventually struck off!