Originally posted in Axis of Logic
Traveling in India is a fascinating and mind-changing experience. You are charmed by the friendly and beautiful people, even though underneath it all there are many aspects of the lives of poor Indians that are difficult to accept with equanimity. Nevertheless you are bound to fall in love with the country even though the harsh reality is so visible everywhere.
For our third visit to India we had chosen to visit only Tamil Nadu, very different from the north that we had visited twice already, and completely different from Sikkim where we went last October, a northern state between Nepal and Bhutan (and formerly an independent country with a king), right in the lower Himalaya mountains.
Tamil Nadu is a country of multicolored temples, vast rice fields, huge loads of sugar cane or hay pulled by skinny bulls with colored horns, palm thatched huts where people live in one-room houses and seem perfectly happy with their lot.
I don't believe there are many countries in the world that can stand up to India in terms of variety, color, movement and joie de vivre.
Sadly though, India is also outstanding when it comes to the enormous number of beggars and street children, incredibly hardworking women not just in the rice fields but also in other cruelly hard jobs such as in road construction. The ubiquitous poverty is visible to anybody on their first visit to the country. There seems to be much less begging and true misery, however, in Sikkim where we were last October as well as in Tamil Nadu. Sure, people work hard but they seem to earn a fairly decent living.
The majority of the dwellings of the poor seem very rudimentary, at least to Westerners, but nevertheless there are smiling, happy looking people everywhere, friendly and seemingly full of love for each other and for others. How is this apparently contradictory state of things possible?