A Dust Over India

A Dust Over India

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As your plane descends upon New Delhi, a soft orange haze engulfs you, drawing you in. A cascade of shanty-towns drift below, clogged arteries of traffic dividing the landscape into innumerable scattered shards of populace. If you land in the evening, the haze throbs over the country with a dull
glow in the speckled city lights. If you land in the afternoon, then the haze is a giant mass of incomprehensible dust — some amalgamation of smog, smoke, dirt, and fog — and no matter how far away you go, or how far you get, you never completely escape it.

I have been to 40 different countries. Yet India made the most indelible impression of any of them. And not for all of the right reasons. Frankly, it’s not a pleasant place to be. Anyone who tells you otherwise lacks perspective. India’s full of contradictions: horrors and delights, achievements and atrocities, often on the same city-block. And despite the immense history, the monuments, the spectacular sites of human ingenuity, one can’t help but ask themselves repeatedly what they’re doing there.

The first thing that strikes you about India is how dirty it is. In a word, the place is disgusting. All of it. The entire country. Never before have I seen mountains of garbage the size of a small house stacked on the side of a road, in broad daylight, in the middle of a city, repeatedly. Dumpsters tipped over and overflowing. Mounds of trash — wrappers, cups, papers, napkins, strewn all about, mixed with sludge from the soda and urine and spit coagulated from thousands of daily passersby.

Like the dust, the garbage never ceases. And along with the garbage, there is an unending stream of humanity. It is impossible to spend a full day in the middle of a major Indian city without lobotomizing yourself trying to figure out where the hell all of the people come from. I’ve been to Hong Kong. I’ve been to Manhattan and Beijing. I’ve been to Mexico City. And the swarm of humanity crawling through India’s cities is unparalleled. There’s no comparison. Many streets more closely resemble a bee hive than a functioning human society. When I flew into Mumbai, there were homeless people sleeping on the tarmac. Take a moment for that to sink in: the city is so crowded and disgusting that people decide they’d rather sleep on the airport runway.

And that is the second thing to strike you about India. The poverty. It is legitimate take-your-breath-away poverty. Like the kind you see on TV charity ads but far worse. And far more real. Limbless men stewing about in their own feces. Emaciated children playing on a piles of garbage. A man with his leg literally rotting off to the bone, maggots and all, laying on the curb. It’s everywhere. The amount of suffering is indescribable. And it is unceasing. After a couple days, I was excited to hire a driver to go to Agra because I figured I’d be able to see some countryside and escape the stench and horrors of the city. But no. The entire four hours between Delhi and Agra was an unending stream of people, garbage and cars, with billows of dust drafting in our wake the whole way down.

My initial reaction the first few days was pure shock. But it quickly evolved into anger. How could a place like this be allowed to exist? How could normal people walk around with a clear conscience with so much shit and squalor festering about them? I felt indignant. Where was the social accountability? Where was the charity? Where the fuck was the government?

I’m no expert. And god knows my own country has plenty of problems. I’ve been to plenty of developing countries and seen plenty of poverty. But this was something else entirely. The sheer magnitude, more than anything, wrought a deeply emotional response out of me.

For the first time in my life, I finally grasped what inspires people to drop everything and move to a dirt-hole in the middle of Africa and start feeding people. When confronted with that much suffering, it seems insane NOT to do it. People like Mother Teresa or Princess Diana or Bill Gates didn’t seem like such foreign actors anymore. I could feel what they must have felt, even if just for a moment. With my driver taking me on a full-day trip to Agra, I watched the endless poverty scroll by like a demented video game. I had an overwhelming urge to stop at an ATM and withdraw 25,000 Rupees and start handing money out to people at random. I started doing the math in my head. That’s roughly $500. I could hand out $25 to twenty people. $25 could probably feed these people for almost a month. How much of my monthly income would I be willing to give up to feed 20 people each month? At what number would I no longer be willing to do it? At what dollar-amount did my morality begin and end?

The numbers began to make my head swirl. I was calculating my personal morality. I felt pathetic. And powerless. Like Oscar Schindler at the end of Schindler’s List sobbing that his gold ring could have saved one more Jew, self-pitying yet noble at the same time. That Big Mac I had in the airport could have saved one more Indian! Damn you, value meal!

Things only got more surreal from there. At a security checkpoint a kid brought up a real live cobra to my car window, scaring the living shit out of me and my fellow passengers. He then asked us for a rupee. We didn’t give him one. In another scenario, a Swedish girl in the car with us mentioned she should have given some starving boys her box of cookies. When we asked her why she didn’t, she calmly replied that little boys shouldn’t be eating cookies, that it’s bad for them.

In a Pizza Hut, every table had its own waitress. When I ordered hot wings as an appetizer my waitress duly congratulated me on making such an excellent culinary decision. Seriously. That’s what she said. As I looked around the restaurant, I saw each table occupied with fat, well-dressed Indians. I was reminded of the line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

“He must be a king.”
“What makes you say that?”
“He doesn’t have shit all over him.”

In Pizza Hut, the Indian people did not have shit all over them, therefore I assumed they were kings. That and they all conspicuously had their Blackberry’s out for one seemingly nonchalant reason or another, silently bragging to one another across the restaurant between garlic sticks.

Meanwhile, out the window in front of the restaurant, a homeless boy (covered in shit) was attempting to pry open a boarded-up hot dog stand, presumably to find some scraps of food left inside. Stray dogs licked their open sores nearby. Trash milled about, blown by dust. And we, the fat, rich kings of Pizza Hut had our appetizers congratulated by personal staff. The mind boggled. The contradictions mounted. My cognitive dissonance flared. When the manager came by to ask me how I was enjoying my meal, my first thought was “This is fucking Pizza Hut. What’s wrong with you?” But I didn’t. I smiled and said “Fine, thanks.”

But the bizarro world of India didn’t always lead to anger. It could be charming as well. At the Taj Mahal, I was approached by an Indian guy my age who asked me to take a picture. I said sure and reached out to take his camera, assuming he wanted me to take a photo of him in front of the monument. But instead, he stepped away from me, pointed the camera at me, and as four of his friends surrounded me and draped their arms around me, snapped a photo. Minutes later, a small family of four requested the same. And then another family, but this time just me kneeling with their kids. Then a group of teenage boys who wanted a picture with my tattoo. As a tourist, I became part of the tourist attraction myself. Here we are at the Taj Mahal. And here we are with a white person. And here’s little Sandeep flexing his arm next to the big white man. Soon a crowd had gathered. Many of them hung around, nervously trying to speak English with me. Some of them simply stared for minutes on end. All of them beamed smiles of excitement.


The dust pervades every city and town, some with a smoggy golden hue, others with a gentle grey haze. It cakes the cars, the streetlights and the dead stray animals. It scratches at your throat and turns your snot black.

Indian culture itself is quite disorienting. The people can be incredibly warm and hospitable, or cold and rude depending on the context and how they know you. The conclusion I eventually came to is that if they already know you, or if they’re somehow benefiting from you, then they can be incredibly warm and open people. But if they don’t know you, or if they’re trying to get something out of you, then they are a prickly, conniving bunch.

The local I got to know the best was Sanjay, the 20-something year old who ran a hostel I stayed in. He had studied in London and been all over Europe so he was fairly westernized. He and I would stay up late together drinking cheap vodka regaling each other with our travel stories. There was little else to do after nightfall in India but get drunk. And little felt more appropriate.

But what Sanjay told me about Indian people is bizarre but true. He said Indians will rarely, if ever, resort to violence. As a foreigner, you never have to worry about being robbed, or having a knife pulled on you, or getting beaten up by a gang of thugs and having your kidney carved out of you. And this is true. I’ve been to many shady parts of the world. But never did I once feel unsafe in India. Even late at night.

BUT, Sanjay said, an Indian will lie to your face. He’ll say anything to get what he wants from you. And most of them don’t see it as immoral or wrong. So on the one hand, they won’t stick a gun in your face to take your wallet. But they’ll hand you fake business cards and offer to sell you something that they don’t actually have, so that you’ll voluntarily empty your wallet to them on your own accord.

And I have to give them credit, they’re really convincing salespeople.

In Agra, our driver brought us to a handcrafted rug shop. Inside the shop I immediately knew what was coming: a “tour” of the rug factory where we would be cornered (literally) and pitched to buy one. I had seen this before in other countries and here I saw it coming a mile away. Yet the man came across as so unassuming, so genteel, so incredibly polite, it was impossible to not be won over. He showed us the individual thread counts of the rugs, how the rugs are meticulously woven by hand. He showed us how they design the patterns on elaborate grids and then translate them to their wooden weaves. He then took us downstairs, gave us beverages and launched into one of the most impressive sales pitches I’ve ever heard in my life. The man should be selling luxury cars in the United States. By the end of it, I was busy deciding which rug my mother would like the best. After some gentle bargaining, and some friendly gestures, I made the purchase and arranged to have it shipped to her in the US.

It was about an hour later in the car when I realized what had just happened. The elaborate setup. The way packages with American addresses had been set out just right for us to see. The pictures of “satisfied customers.” I knew what they were, and they were good. My stomach dropped. I’d been had. My mother would never see that rug.

But with only a couple hundred dollars lost, I got away fairly unscathed. An 18-year-old Canadian kid staying in our hostel got taken for thousands of dollars. A couple Indians stopped him on the street, and with perfect English convinced him they worked for a travel agency. They then led him to their “office,” where they handed him “brochures” and “planned” out over a month’s worth of traveling and lodging, telling him the entire time that they were getting him the best deals and that they would pre-arrange every relevant tour. By the end of the hour, he had spent close to $2,000 and felt good about it. By the time he got back to the hostel his face was white. He realized what happened. He asked Sanjay about it and Sanjay told him to immediately call his bank in Canada and cancel the card. Tell them it had been stolen. There was no trip. No lodging. No travel agency. Just two Indian guys with silver tongues.

The scams aren’t limited to high-end tourist items either. Pirated DVD’s that don’t work. Taxis that let you off at the wrong place. Hotels that add suspicious “fees” at the last minute. You get harassed constantly on the streets: vendors following you for half a block trying to hock their useless shit to you. Luckily, I learned long ago the perfect remedy to street touts: iPod + sunglasses. Crank that shit up to 10 and just keep walking. What you can’t hear or see can’t bother you. Would-be harassers and hagglers bounce off you like flies.

But, to be fair, many Indians will go out of their way to be honest with you. There were multiple times where I thought the guy had asked for 50 Rupees when he had actually said something else, and instead of taking the extra money he gave it back. Or like the time a taxi driver offered to show me a famous Minaret for free, for no other reason than because he was Muslim and thought I should see it. Or the kid in Gaya who rode me all the way back to my hotel on the back of his bike, for no other reason than he was excited to practice English with me. Or Sanjay, who on our third night drinking together, surprised me with an entire home-cooked meal made especially for me. Or my tour driver, who after dutifully driving us around for over 13 hours straight, teared up and hugged me when I gave him a 50% tip.

Like anywhere else, Indians aren’t all good or bad. You simply get more of each social extreme. It’s unpredictable. Not to mention emotionally draining. The constant need to be on-guard is taxing on one’s psyche.

In Bangalore, I snapped. My taxi driver from the airport “forgot” to turn on the meter. Realizing this, I watched his odometer and counted the 30 kilometers we traveled. When we arrived, he tried to charge me for 50 kilometers. A shouting match ensued. I threw the money for 30km at him, grabbed my bag and walked into my hotel. He followed. He began pleading to the hotel clerk that I had refused to pay and that his price was the appropriate price. Now, with four people watching, I pulled out my laptop, connected to the wireless network, loaded Google Maps, and showed him that it was, in fact 30 kilometers from the airport to the hotel. My hands were shaking with anger by the time it finished loading. Luckily, he took my money and sulked off. At the door he turned around and said, “But you need to sign the receipt.” I shouted back, “Go fuck yourself.”

I moped into my room, frazzled and bitter. After almost three weeks of dealing with such nonsense, I was reaching my wit’s end. I would not be surprised if I ended up punching someone over something menial soon. I lost it with the taxi driver. And when I did the math in my head, it was just $4. I freaked out over $4.

Luckily I was leaving soon, heading to Singapore in a few days, back to civilization. I laid out on my bed, took a deep breath and opened my laptop. In the inbox was an email from my mom: “Thanks for the rug, I love it!”


In the northern foothills of the Himalayas, the dust morphs into an awkward haze. It sticks to the horizon. Trash still permeates the small villages, although in smaller heaps, many of them charred from their daily burnings. The beggars seem less down-trodden. Cows sprinkle the roadways in between tuk-tuks and overflowing caravans. For the most part, the crowds have dissipated.

India attracts a wide variety of spiritual-seekers, lost western souls criss-crossing its geography in search of meaning or of themselves. India is the cradle to two of the oldest major religions in the world: Hinduism and Buddhism, both of which, unlike their western counterparts, focus predominantly on a first-person perspective of spiritual development. Having been interested in Buddhism for over a decade and having spent much of my college years meditating and attending retreats, my interest was piqued by the plethora of ashrams, gurus, and Dharma groups available.

The reality was a let down. There’s no other way to describe the phenomenon other than what it is: spiritual tourism. Which is somewhat of an oxymoron, especially in Buddhism. And also disheartening as it falls victim to the same scam-inducing practices as India’s other tourist markets. Scattered around places like Bodhgaya and Goa, flyers are shoved in your face, street peddlers try to convince you that they can take you to the best ashram in town (as if there’s a “best” way to do yoga). Some even promise enlightenment… for 10,000 Rupees a week. Now, I’m sure there are legitimate and profound retreats and ashrams in India. But the whole process felt cheap and inauthentic.

Children tried to sell marijuana around yoga retreat centers. And it was apparent why: the dreadlocked, tie-dyed, mid-life-crisis’ed Western clientele who streamed through enthusiastically buying from them told you all you needed to know about the scene. Two westerners I spoke to in Bodhgaya, where I considered sitting in on a retreat for a couple days, told me that they had never meditated before and were excited to learn it in India. When I mentioned that one could learn to meditate in 10 minutes at home to see if they actually liked it, they replied, “Yeah, but it’s so much cooler to do it in India.” My mind’s eye could just see The Buddha face-palming at that statement.

One girl tried to brag to me that she had had visions of Krishna in the northern mountains and that she thinks she may convert to Hinduism. When it came out that she had been smoking local hashish every day for weeks on end, I pointed out that these two things may not be a coincidence. She didn’t like hearing that.

Perhaps it was my own arrogance, but it saddened me. My belief has always been that spirituality is something that is experienced personally, not measured, compared, or quantified. Meditating on a loud bus in Chicago can be just as profound as meditating under the Bodhi Tree itself. In a religion whose whole belief system revolves around impermanence, unattachment to the material world, and equanimity, making a 4,000 mile pilgrimage to a tree in the middle of Nowhere, India, for bragging rights seems, well… counterproductive. I can see the interest historically, and perhaps emotionally, but spiritually, there’s not a whole lot of difference. And so as I passed the flyers, and the hippies with their braids and skullcaps, it became harder and harder not to be a little bitter. I understand that pilgrimages and capitalizing on your most holy site are pretty standard for all of the world’s religions. But I guess in my mind I held out hope that Buddhism was different. And actually, Buddhism IS different. Its the followers who aren’t.

(Or maybe I just don’t like hippies.)

But I can’t help but feel that the volume of poverty in India is related to the solipsistic tendencies of the religions based there. I also can’t help but feel that foreigners regularly mistake being pushed so far out of their cultural comfort-zone as some sort of spiritual experience. When the human mind is presented with paradoxical conditions, it usually reacts with inexplicable feelings and often invents a supernatural explanation for them. And India is rife with paradoxical conditions.

The most beneficial effect of traveling that I’ve found is that it forces you to become more confident and independent in a million, tiny, unnoticeable ways that add up to a great, noticeable whole. The more difficult and exotic the culture, the more it challenges you, the more it engages you on an emotional level, and the more you grow in intangible and personal ways.

Perhaps there’s nothing inherently “spiritual” about the sub-continent, it’s just the most extreme cultural experience a westerner can subject themselves to and as a result grow from.

Every country we go to, our natural inclination is to search for some kind of greater meaning. “China’s finally making the leap,” or “Latin culture is exceedingly passionate,” or “Corruption dominates Russia,” — all of these trite little platitudes that we bring home with us and spill amongst our friends and loved ones to show that we did something significant, that we learned something interesting. This is where I went. This is the meaning. All in one or two sentences.

There’s no single sentence for India. The place is a fucking mess. And it’s the only country that I’ve ever been to where I left more confused than when I arrived. My search for meaning came up empty time and time again.

One day in Bodhgaya, a small town of maybe a few thousand people, I ate at an outdoor restaurant in the town square. Beggars, shirtless children and cows littered the square, along with a few assorted street vendors. I had just returned from touring the temple built for the place The Buddha had become enlightened. Looking out over the town square from my large plate of curry, I watched the beggars stew about, completely ignored by the townspeople. By this time my search for meaning in this land had become frantic, and my emotions fried. I looked at the mound of food before me. It had cost $2.50 US dollars and could feed multiple people. I called the waiter over and ordered another one.

The two nearest beggars were an old man and woman together, huddled on the ground, clothes tattered, white hair and beard matted and dirty. They looked up at me with their emaciated arms outstretched in cups, the same cupped hands one would use to drink from a river. Their eyes sank into their sockets. They seemed to look beyond me. I put the second plate of food down in front of them like a pair of dogs. They looked at it wide-eyed for a moment, and began shoveling the food into their faces as fast as they could.

Curry dripped from the man’s beard. Rice mashed into his black fingernails. Bits of chicken spattered on the ground below them. I stood there watching for a few seconds, expecting something. What? I don’t know. But I wanted to feel something. I wanted to feel like there was some purpose to all of this. That I could walk away with something important from my whole experience.

But instead I felt helpless. It was like I had just put a band-aid on the Titanic. He’s going to go digging through garbage again in a couple hours. He didn’t even look at me. What’s the point?
Obviously, I’m no Mother Teresa. And it’s just as well, Mother Teresa couldn’t save this society from itself. Sometimes human systems become so large that they hurt people, not by design, but by inertia. And it’s beyond any of our ability to grasp, let alone control.

The townspeople had seen what I had just done. And within seconds, a boy approaches me and asks me to buy him a soccer ball. I tell him no and begin to walk away. He follows. Then another man comes up wanting to sell me pirated Bollywood DVD’s. I also tell him no. He gets upset, “You give food to a beggar, but you won’t even buy a DVD from me? Why not?” He felt like I committed some terrible injustice against him.

A crowd was beginning to form around me, looking for handouts. I quietly put on my headphones and sunglasses, turned my iPod up to full blast, and walked through the dust.

Update: I want to thank all of the Indian readers who commented (yes, even the criticisms). I have promised to return to India one day and give it another chance, this time doing more research about the country and spending more time in the non-urban areas.

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780 Comments

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  • Reply

    Non Invader

    9 weeks ago

    I agree with Mark’s blog, there is filth all over India, even in the cleanest cities like Dehradun, Chandigarh & the so called clean city Bangalore. The mughal’s contribution to India is only worthless monuments, they were so barbaric that no other country would have forgived them apart from India. Mughal regime was tyrannical to say the least only a sane mind can understand. The British despite the loot built a lot of infrastructure & also taught Indian’s English which is helping India even now. This Sarah has rightly pointed out.

    As regards filth, there should be a serious look in by the new govt. Malaysia is a great example for India to follow, Malaysia got independence 10 years later in 1957. Not only India, entire Indian subcontinent is filthy, to single out India is wrong, pakistan & bangladesh are way more dirtier maybe there is something wrong in the educational set up itself. Unless a heavy punishment is introduced in India, even some whip lashes the country cannot be clean. Anybody who puts rubbish in a public place should be humiliated in public, only then this will work.

    Thanks Mark for posting such a nice article

  • Reply

    Avtar Saini

    9 weeks ago

    Mark,

    I think your vision of India had been very much warped by your own personality, India is without a doubt an acquired taste. However, your descriptions of masses of children caked in shit and your constant references, both overt and underlying, to “returning to civilisation” and the idea that westernisation= education certainly shows a sense of arrogance and an inability to move beyond preconceptions that you yourself may not be aware of and ultimately left you feeling unfulfilled by your trip.

    I, like many other comments have said, will be the first to say that India is cursed by immense poverty, rubbish everywhere and a profound sense of apathy that has resulted in your average Indian being oblivious to the dirt that surrounds them, however, your inability to see beyond this is not India’s fault but your own. India is a very intense country for anyone coming from almost anywhere outside south Asia, and I would not describe it as a “holiday” destination but I do believe that once you scrape away the filth and the charlatans, which will be found everywhere, most will find an immensely fulfilling experience that will leave one feeling warm inside despite the wide ranging and lets be honest enormous imperfections of India. Sites such as inside the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar and the Great Stupa at Sanchi are places where one can really gain a sense of the diversity and true spirituality of Indian culture without men trying to hawk an assortment of crap. Less well known gems such as these, although they lack the grandeur of the Taj Mahal, offer a real insight into the India that most rarely give a second look.

    However, I do believe that to reach these places and to see them beyond the dirt does require a certain kind of person and as someone who swore across a hotel lobby over a taxi fare and used your iPod to constantly break yourself away from the country that you had come to visit and presumably wanted to experience, you may not be the man to see India beyond the “shit hole” you described and I cannot blame you at all for that, like I have said India is an acquired taste. However, I can blame you for asserting a stamp on India of being an uncivilised “heap” waiting for westernisation to come its way. Well I for one hope that the westernisation of India that the British began never is completed and that it simply does not become another brick in the wall like Singapore or Hong Kong and btw those who wish to say that British rule did not cause any of India’s current poverty I merely point you to the fact of the deindustrialisation of India by the British where a vast number of commodities which India had led in where banned from being produced in India and their production was moved to Britain reducing India’s share of world GDP from 25% in 1750 to 2% in 1900, although they did drastically improve India’s infrastructure and are by no means to blame for the filth that currently permeates India.I also disagree with the view some Indians have stated the Mughals were a foreign power, which I believe undermines many of India’s greatest monuments and portrays India as a land built by foreigners despite that the Mughals ultimately in the end could describe themselves as nothing else but Indian and there outstanding cultural contributions to India are not Mughal achievements but Indian achievements.

    Although I am sure India will never become the mainstream tourist destination that the government wishes it will be in the way that the gleaming transformation of China has pushed it to the top of tourist arrival rankings, I do believe that Indians are awakening to the state of their country from their centuries of slumber I do hold a genuine belief that India can hack away at the filth and poverty that surrounds us, albeit at an Indian pace, and I encourage that anyone who is capable of walking past a pile of rubble or a cow in the middle of a financial district and not collapsing in a heap should come and experience India in all its Marmite glory.

  • Reply

    Pj

    9 weeks ago

    Just stay away from India, nobody asked you to come here and having to badmouth it.
    Just stay in your so called ‘developed country’.
    And also tell your fucking biased media not to publish any india related news. You people from western country seem to not being able to digest your food unless and until you have something bad to say about India.
    You fuckers!
    You fucking westerners just leave India alone, okay?

  • Reply

    Kapil Sharma

    8 weeks ago

    Dear Mark,

    I am fully agree with you, we Indians made our own country a filthy and dirty place to live. There are few reasons for it

    1. Population – Major Reason
    2. Poverty
    3. Education System

    We Indians only love money and nothing else, we don’t care about dirt we throw on earth & water, our religion has considered earth, water and other natural resources as religious idols and we should be thankful to it, but we do follow religion but not religious. We should be honest with this earth, who is giving us energy and necessary resources to survive.

    Now, silver lining in the cloud is, I have decided to not throw any dirt on streets or public place and will not make our own country a dirty place to visit. Same message I am broadcasting through social media and making my friends and relatives aware of it.

    There are many more people and agencies who are working in same direction, so I hope India will also become a cleaner place soon, and many more foreigners will prefer to visit it.

    @Mark : Many thanks to you for your frank review and comments.

  • Reply

    Kapil

    8 weeks ago

    Dear Mark,

    I am fully agree with you, we Indians made our own country a filthy and dirty place to live. There are few reasons for it

    1. Population – Major Reason
    2. Poverty
    3. Education System

    We Indians only love money and nothing else, we don’t care about dirt we throw on earth & water, our religion has considered earth, water and other natural resources as religious idols and we should be thankful to it, but we do follow religion but not religious. We should be honest with this earth, who is giving us energy and necessary resources to survive.

    Now, silver lining in the cloud is, I have decided to not throw any dirt on streets or public place and will not make our own country a dirty place to visit. Same message I am broadcasting through social media and making my friends and relatives aware of it.

    There are many more people and agencies who are working in same direction, so I hope India will also become a cleaner place soon, and many more foreigners will prefer to visit it.

    @Mark : Many thanks to you for your frank review and comments.

    P.S. :- Dear Indian Friends, rather than blaming Mark for biased blog, accept this problem and work on it to find out solution for it, at least ask your friends and relatives to not spread and garbage on streets.

    Regards
    Kapil

    • Reply

      Sandeep Armal

      5 weeks ago

      Ohhh. Really Kapil then what are you doing to clean India? First start from yourself then blame others. Shame on you..

  • Reply

    Akash

    7 weeks ago

    Mark you are absolutely right. I’m and Indian and believe me we Indians are also tired of this place. I don’t get it when foreigners say the word incredible India,there is nothing incredible about this place. Its all shit. Even the mindset of the people are also bad. There are also things i like about India like the free media which isn’t there at all in western countries. But proportion of bad things here are thousand times more than any good thing here…..

  • Reply

    grayrain

    7 weeks ago

    I’m speaking as an Indian born in America. I hate India. It’s a filthy, rape-crazy shithole. I cannot talk to the older generation at all – all they care about is money or their crazy religion of choice. Oh, and marriage. They are bat shit crazy about pointlessly reproducing, no matter the cost, and the hatred/abuse towards women is ridiculous. BTW, the part about Indians being non-violent is BS: you’re a white male with cash. Go there as a woman and get gang raped like crazy.

    And what makes me laugh is how they will lie in your face and tell you that it’s a “great place”. There is this penchant that I haven noticed with the country and all my relatives – there is a frantic desire to always look ‘good’ in the eyes of everyone else. Hide your shit under the rug and never let it be seen. Do only enough to impress a bit, then back to your idiocy.

    I can’t stand it. I swore to myself that I would never go there again. However, I think if anyone has the chance, just take a flight from Singapore to anywhere in India, just once. It’s a literal descent into hell that everyone should experience, and it will make you appreciate everything we strive for in other countries.

    Protecting the environment, disabling the power of wealthy and don’t buy their shit talk about trickle effects or other horseshit. They want to be like India, a place where they would gladly sacrifice half the population if it meant the GDP would go up half a percent, that they would kill anyone in their way to get a 27-story house while everyone else lives in slums (Google that). Do everything, do anything and everything to keep your country from becoming a shithole like India.

  • Reply

    walter tobias young

    6 weeks ago

    I do not agree that there is much filthiness in India. I was in India from May 26 to June 7 and I did not see any of those filth referred to in the narration. I went to as far as Amritsar in Punjab and even visited the Golden Temple. I went the countrysides in Ludhiana, Phillaur, Horsiarpur, Sanggowahl, Didial within the distric of Julandhar and I have not seen any trace of dirtiness or unsanitation. I also went to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. The 3-hour drive through the Taj Express was exciting as you could see flocks of deer along the fields galloping.

    But I agree 100 per cent that you will never feel unsafe in the streets of India.

    What was so fascinating about New Delhi is that flocks of large birds, eagles, falcons, crows and other sorts of birds, flying and gliding in the skies. In fact, I never got attacked with my sneezing seizures of my allergic rhinitis while in India. When I got home, my allergic rhinitis flared up.

  • Reply

    SSL93

    6 weeks ago

    I am a person of indian origin however, for generations no one in my family has ever been to india. In saying this, I am very much deeply connected to India and relate and call myself an Indian. And one day maybe, I’ll visit India.

    I must say, your article contains a lot of truth to it but it holds a certainty of bias that any westerner would feel whose on in his first trip to India. It’s only because you have seen all of this for the first time that you feel like this (which is fine and completely valid). However, to say that indians are quite cold people who can get anything out of you is a complete disrespect not to a whole country but to indian individuals all over the world. Yes, indians are quite a bunch who love to try and get as much as they can but that doesn’t account for them to be ‘cold’. It’s quite funny because I would describe people in western countries cold because neither do they care who you are nor do they want to have to deal with anything that is not their problem. Research conducted all over western countries show that if an individual is in distress in a public space there is a very low percentage of people who will come to lend a helping hand. Isn’t that ‘cold’?
    To be able to really understand the concept of how and why indians (from your perspective) can get anything out of you, you have to understand the people. In saying this, by no means am i standing up for the ones who really do setup scams which is wrong. But doesn’t that happen in every single country? Westernised or not westernised? You felt it more in india because majority of it is done through person to person, and they emotionally connect to you and then you lose your trust and you feel disheartened and frustrated.

    I think you lost perspective after awhile and every single thing came through as being frustrating because it was too overwhelming. I know that I have never been to india and really all those reading would be like she can’t talk she’s never been. But the truth is that before even going to a place like india you have to understand it’s culture and the country itself. Yes, there’s poverty, yes, there’s overpopulation, yes, there’s piles of ‘shit’.
    But you know what despite that I bet every kid that sold something to you or every kid that was covered in ‘shit’ would happily escort you off somewhere if you needed. If you fainted somewhere in the streets of india or looked in distress, crying your heart out you would not get one but twenty people trying to help. Of those twenty there would be ten of the people covered in shit. Two maybe that want to take your sunglasses and iPod of course haha
    But if you were crying somewhere on the streets of London, Sydney, New York etc do you know how many people would come upto you and ask if you’re alright? One maybe three but many would turn a blind eye. I am not blaming those people, it’s the just culture and how we have brought up to be like that. There is no one to blame.

    To be honest, I agree with you on some aspects that India really does need to solve some issues and people follow a religion but aren’t really religious.
    But that still doesn’t mean that India is a complete place of misery, you missed your lesson here because you were too overwhelmed.
    Indians are extremely happy people despite their situation. And that’s your one sentence for you.

    Religion is a completely different matter but to be honest it has to do with an individual and how they feel. But please don’t stereotype into saying that the girl who smoked hashish saw her visions as krishna as the whole population of people practising hinduism. That’s just ridiculing the religion. In saying that, I know that there are so many people who put on an act just for the religion to earn some sort of cash. But don’t blame the religion blame the people. Some people do feel the spiritual connection and as I said it’s all upto an individual. People visit religious sites sometimes not to find that spiritual connection but to celebrate and appreciate their religion. It’s like saying that we go to church but whats the point I don’t feel Jesus. But really people go for completely different reasons and we should respect that.

    I understand and respect your views,opinions and experiences. You sound like someone who is extremely intelligent and have an open wide range of beliefs but next time when you go India maybe instead of trying to feed a homeless person and counting how much you can spend on every child ‘covered in shit’, talk to them about who they are. And you’ll see that despite the situation they will foolishly keep smiling at you and asking if they can hear through your head phones.

  • Reply

    Rhea

    4 weeks ago

    The comments are so interesting

  • Reply

    EU_indien

    4 weeks ago

    If India is bad, have you seen United Kingdom lately? Anti social drunk violent behaviour is all over the Uk…cities like glassgow, liverpool, and even most of London are full of crime, violence and murderous dangerous people. British are the worst kind of racist scum on this planet …and levels of poverty in Uk are no less shocking especially for a “developed” country. Half of british live in ugly scary buildings called Council Estates…they are so ugly that kids growing up in such housing turn out to be dangerous criminals …..majority of British teens are messed up…knife stabbing amongst british teens is quite common. London is a filthy dangerous city now..outside the very rich areas its all crime ridden and dangerous …look up crime rates in Uk and its quite shocking. Also Uk is considered the worst country in europe to live,,,with the worst quality of life and the highest rate of poverty as well as highest rates of violent crimes,

    • Reply

      Erin Latta

      3 weeks ago

      Why doesn’t the Royal Family use a lot of their money to give to the poor?

  • Reply

    KIFTIK

    2 weeks ago

    Today is July, 17 2014 and I just visited Taj Mahal and the Red Fort in Agra. I was in Chennai for a business meeting and must stopover in Delhi for some site seeing – the heat, humidity and dust is already getting to me.

    Unfortunately, for the proud Indians, Mark is every bit correct in his analysis, there is dirt and dust everywhere and people don’t seem to mind the garbage, instead they add to it by peeing or throwing even more on top. People are non-confrontational but at the same time they can be sly and conniving.

    The question I am left asking myself is why is this so. As others have pointed out, an ever increasing population and lack of resources to support this population is the answer. But good education may ultimately turn the tide several decades down the road. And what about the indifference of the people towards poverty and filthy living conditions – spirituality and gods probably takes center stage while the beggars and the garbage on the street are forgotten.

    BTW, Taj Mahal was a let down. It is good but I am left asking myself why they made it one of the wonders, there are other architectural masterpieces that date back to the 1600s and before that are probably superior to the Taj Mahal. Perhaps, because Taj Mahal was made by a loving husband for his wife, making it a wonder is just one way for men to trick the women of this world in feeling important and loved.

    Some of our Indian friends seem to think a little bit more of themselves in terms of what they had to give to the world. Unfortunately, they will have to work long and hard for many decades to make a real difference and I am sure this will happen, Taj Mahal and some forts don’t really cut it. Until now, India has progressed because of West’s interest in it as a market and as a cheap source of IT labor – India must learn ingenuity and find new ways to progress by inventing new idea.

    KI

  • Reply

    Bhola Nath

    1 week ago

    Don’t worry about present condition of India. India was a great country and after Kalki avatar country will regain its fortune again.

    Until then keep worshiping and do not waste water anyhow.

    And also do not fight like fools as Angels are making fun of us in front of GOD and Nature.

    I heard that countries are sending their waster to India as dumping yard.If yes , then this is also a cheating.

  • Reply

    Kedbad

    4 days ago

    Dear Mark,

    A French national had a few days working assignment in India and he worked as an intern at a few places in India like a lawfirm and a Software Company not as a tourist. And he had assignments in other countries as well. After reaching France he commented for his Indian friends more affectionately than other country persons for which his other friends from other countries protested and mentioned that hello you visited our country as well. He did not have to face beggars much since he was not visiting tourist places.

    I grew up in an amazing school, hating the Dirt, Beggars and the ill governance by governments in India found at a few public places.

    Sometimes I felt like how can we even tolerate all this.
    Sometimes I felt like things cant improve.

    I became spiritual and things have turned completely opposite since then.
    I was wrong all this while… and my thinking was no more than of an immature person.
    I realized that India is a tough country to live in with so much competition and ill governance. Almost every person in India is working towards achieving better career levels to gain economically and to give better lifestyle to their next generations, their sheer perseverance is mind boggling. Its the government failure to correct the broad picture and or to engage the people collectively for goals like environment cleaning etc. The people are making better houses, malls, shops, new innovative companies but the public amenities need lot of working.

    I had discussions with a few foreigners like from France, Turkey etc.
    I asked them that what would have happened in their country if the water was clogged like this after rains in their country
    “They said people would have held protests in their town square etc.”
    Indians don’t protest as a unit regularly because of diversity therefore our politicians get away with their ill governance.

    But I realized Indian voters were smarter than they are credited of. They had been since long trying permutations and combinations of political parties, like they tried single party majority then did not give any single party any majority and this time they have given majority to opposition party after

    In the mean while I traveled India a bit more and found it amazing, its beautiful the clean deserts, the clean mountains, the clean forests, the clean rivers, the young people everywhere work hard to make your trip worthwhile and get more clients in competition. I avoided small time public attractions.
    No where I felt unsafe in India.
    I stopped looking at smaller issues like beggars and dirt at a few places. I found that Indians are working silently at the root cause of the problems, Policies of the Government, Education, Anti Corruption. Indians are protesting against the colonial theory of ruling class and are changing the attitudes of governance in India. The new Government has created a ministry specifically to clean a major River. If this government does not deliver, I am sure people will replace it.
    In my opinion you have highlighted your bad experiences and hidden your good experiences. Its your article fine. But you have not even explored India, you just visited India. A lot of Indians need to explore India as well, incredible India.

    • Reply

      Servant of God

      2 days ago

      “I grew up in an amazing school, hating the Dirt, Beggars and the ill governance by governments in India found at a few public places.

      Sometimes I felt like how can we even tolerate all this.
      Sometimes I felt like things cant improve.

      I became spiritual and things have turned completely opposite since then.” .. “I stopped looking at smaller issues like beggars and dirt”

      You are a pathetic excuse of a human Kedbad. You were once correctly morally outraged, your heard was in the right place (but I rather suspect that you didn’t actually do anything proactive than wish and hope that the beggars and dirt would be wiped clean). All are one family, it is your duty and responsibility to contribute towards building a fair and equitable society.

      Do you actually understand the cause of poverty in India? Do some research. It has to do with an unbalanced and unfair society, starting from the oppressive Hindu religion (and then all the other religions in later ages) culminating in the feudal system introduced by the Mughals and subsequently the British and upheld by the elite Indian “founding fathers”. Demand for cash crops and a general unsustainable demand from cities for everything from natural resources to food to water to power generating plants have driven a formerly well fed country to one that is broken. People have been driven from their ancestral homelands, where they have lived in harmony with nature, eating the best quality organic food and having access to natural herbs. In this day and age people like you create demand at the expense of others. In no other human society on this planet and in the history of the world, apart from those where slavery was openly practised- has an elite middle class so badly exploited such a great segment of not only humans, but also nature.

      Of what spirituality do you talk? God weeps at your antics and that of your fellow man. Rather than becoming spiritual, you have been brainwashed into ignoring the problems in society. Inaction equals genocide against your fellow man (and nature). Do you comprehend this? I do not use the term loosely- you Sir are guilty of crimes against humanity.

      Anyone who sees suffering and equality should be moved to the extent that they drop everything and do something about it. Small girls are raped and hung from trees in some places here, and whilst I do not advocate capital punishment, it’s really unfortunate that people like you weren’t hung in their place.

  • Reply

    Raj Thackersey

    3 days ago

    In India the dirt is outside but in Singapore and Malaysia, the dirt is inside. The dirt in India is at least visible, you can always take precautions against visible threats. In Singapore and Malaysia, bulk of the population is racist. Race and colour dominates the manner in which they treat you. I can give you countless example but no point in doing so on a forum.

    Also as a white person you will not notice this as Singaporeans and Malaysians simply adore white skin and will go to any length to please you. Having a white person hang out with them adds to their status.

    Your observations about India’s external appearance (dust, dirt etc.) are spot on, and to all my countrymen defending the nation, please join the ugly indian movement to give a befitting response. Mark can even donate some money to this movement. To all foreigners do not provide alms to beggars in India, no matter how sympathetic you feel. If you feel like donating money, donate to specific causes. For example donate to the mid day meal program run by Akshaypatra. Donate to the “Ugly Indian” movement which cleans up urban areas.

    As for Mark’s observation about off the shelf spirituality is concerned, he is right as well. But this is because you have not been advised right. Enroll yourself for a Vipassana program anywhere in India and you will change your opinion. In fact you will rewrite your entire blog after this program.

    India was definitely lurking in its dark ages, every civilization has such a phase. My hope is in the current government which seems to be on track so far, and kudos to millions of Indians for giving overwhelming support to a person who truly deserves to be India’s PM.

  • Reply

    Ashutosh Sharma

    3 days ago

    You foreigners just come for drugs.

    Maybe you think that you can see the whole of India from Delhi or Agra.

    You are the materialistic pests. You people swallow half of the world’s power.

    You have 4/5 times more land. 1/4 of population. Even then you cry for fulfilment!

    Give your land to us, and we will make it 100 times better.

    Where you would need 1000, we will need 100 to seek the same result. Even a better.

    Having less food in our belly gives us self control. You don’t have a bit of that.

    We rape rarely, but you rape a new girl daily. Western girls are so beautiful that they get so many rapists. An american woman is raped so many times in life.

    So many perverts in west.

    Your companies loot us of our money. And do nothing in return.

    You people loot us of our money, and eat shit from it.

    And then come and blame your own Mc donald or pizza shops in India.

    China is against you, middle east is against you, russia is against you. An angry india would mean another 125 crores standing against you.

    Most of us are eager to make money, but we don’t want comforts of life. Only that much to sustain a good life.

    An american will die here. But we don’t. We are born survivors.

    You are drained lots. But we are blossoming flowers. Only in rags.

    You are naive people who don’t have worldly wisdom. Come learn that here.

    Don’t run after spirituality. It’s not for you pragmatic people. Just sex for you. You are blatant unholy!

    But wait. We will be crossing your west forever, in some decades.

    And see nepal, bhutan, lanka, pakistan, etc. also. They are also the part of the bigger india.

    Next time. Come without glasses and Ipod. And see the length of India. Thank you.

  • Reply

    JohnJo

    3 days ago

    Right, I am going to wade in with my two rupees worth.

    I come from the UK and have just spent seven months working and traveling around India. I liked it so much that I even went to Nepal to get another Visa so I could come back again.

    Now I have left I have having the time to reflect on my time and experiences there. No country is perfect and all countries have problems. The fact that India is so big and is becoming increasingly influential means that it will attract more attention than a smaller, less powerful, country.

    But with great power comes great responsibility, and I think Mark has really hit the nail on the head with many of his comments. I am afraid that if I am honest with myself I came away feeling that Indians are inherently dishonest, not just with Tourists, but with each other too. Every financial transaction is fraught with difficulty, nothing is simple, you have to second guess everything.

    This attitude means that India can never become a truly developed county, a stable economy is based in trust, and when this breaks down, the rule of law. Neither of these exist in India. In order for a economy to develop citizens need to pay taxes and those taxes need to spent wisely, by the Government, on behalf of the Citizen. This is simply not happening in India.

    As for the filth and rubbish…..why,why,why?

    Can an Indian who reads this please tell me why it is acceptable to throw all of your rubbish out on the street? Is it because you have no choice? Is it because you don’t care?

    I don’t think this is simply and economic issue, I think it goes far deeper. I have visited some very poor countries in my life and I have never witnessed as much filth as I did in India.

    I genuinely want to get a Indian perspective on this…….

  • Reply

    Servant of God

    2 days ago

    I came to this blog looking for something else, but I must ask the author to close comments on this article. Is there no commenting policy? Do you not have any posting rules? Why do you allow narcissistic uncaring bigots to post comments, and then thank them for their contribution?

    I live in this Godforsaken country. I am one of the people you describe as having dropped everything to do build a fairer more equitable society.

    I have two broad observations:

    1. The author reeks of stereotypical western-tourist-visits-filthy-country, is morally outraged, talks big of being able to empathise with the likes of Mother Theresa etc, however responds by attempting to ignore it all and is glad to “return to civilisation”. This too is civilisation, albeit one that is broken and needs some loving care, to suggest otherwise is to dehumanise a good proportion of the world, and to ignore it. Why aren’t you setting up a. That’s right, you don’t care. You just wanted to throw your dollars around for a pleasurable tourist experience and you were sorely disappointed. I’m sorry but life isn’t about building up your carbon footprint and country hopping. Life is about living a beautiful and sustainable life, betterment of the self, and helping your fellow man. You Sir have failed in your duties as a human and are no better than the pathetic indians commenting here about how poverty either doesn’t exist or that they don’t care.

    2. Moving on to the pathetic excuse for Indians making comments here- Seriously? Are you so desensitised that you find destruction of nature and your fellow man as acceptable? Many of you quote your religion, beat your chest with patriotic jingoistic pride. I’ll give you a dose of the truth: Humanity is the cause of all problems in this world. There is no devil to whom you can outsource blame. There is equally no getting away from the fact that we are all one family, spiritual and physical. Nature is a living entity. Understand where your food, water, electricity and all things in life come from. You’ll find that you yourselves are driving your fellow man into the ground rather than helping them. It’s the ultimate slave owners dream- to exploit and feel that the poor deserve their condition. It’s not dog-eat-dog; it’s merely a country of psychopaths (“…disorder characterized by enduring antisocial behavior, diminished empathy and remorse…”), driven by genetics, religion, geography and a good load of EGO.

    To the author- do us all a favour and close down comments on this article.

  • Reply

    Amit Mehta

    4 months ago

    Mark Manson’s article on Dust over India was the experience that all those who either stays in India or who are visiting India undergoes. I am an educated Indian and this is my home country, Reality is even more saddening then what Mark has written!
    His first day experience (Any well educated foreigner’s experience) face to face with the reality here is a nightmare! They all feel so terrible and sick in this environment that they regret that they had taken the decision to come to India! They so desperately wish to be back where they belong! Some of them I knew fell sick for at least two, three days. They have only one thing in their mind, how can they help improve the condition here? They all leave the country with a sigh of relief that at last they are going away from dirt, poverty, filth and disorder. After a while they forget about the whole episode! Baring a few like Mother Teresa and Dominique Lapierre, Bill gates.
    As Indians, we learn to live here by being less sensitive yet knowing all the time, that this is life. Few days back I came a cross a You Tube video of Budhistgeeks talking about ending the suffering through meditation. It talks about being less in pain and suffering once one starts experiencing the suffering and it says that more experienced meditators some time starts avoiding the experience knowing that they are into state of observation!
    Mark rightly points out “There’s no single sentence for India. The place is a fucking mess. And it’s the only country that I’ve ever been to where I left more confused than when I arrived. My search for meaning came up empty time and time again.”
    Let all of us try to answer some of the questions:
    Which you think is the cleanest and the most sacred place?
    Where do we all belong?
    What can be done to improve the situation? How can we get rid of the poverty and illiteracy from India and all other developing countries? Will globalization or democracy help getting rid of it? If not what will get rid it?

  • Reply

    sUNdar kumar

    4 months ago

    It is amusing to see all these NRIs (Not Required Indians) vying with each other to bad mouth their homeland. Please refrain from coming to India. Nobody asked you to do so. When you feel the need to “connect” to your homeland you can fulfill it by eating at the local indian restaurant or at the indian mandir.

    As far as what the people in the USA/U.K think of you, do check out the comments that are posted in response to any article regarding India on CNN. You will know what you are worth and what people really think of you and say behind your backs.

  • Reply

    Prats

    4 months ago

    I think the article is exaggerated but can any Indian say those are incorrect? No. We have a lot of good things and a lot of messy things. Those who have travelled the world would tell you its ‘easier’ to live, work in most other countries than India and I hold the same opinion. But, India is our country and its our duty to clean the mess.
    And that starts with accepting that there is a problem first.

    Thank You

  • Reply

    bwjohnson49

    3 months ago

    NRI – Non-Resident Indians. They live in other countries and visit India only occasionally. They cost India billions of dollars a year in lost revenues. They could do so much good for India if they stayed and helped re-build the broken infrastructures and contributed their talents in virtually every profession – from medicine to accounting to engineering to business. But they choose to live abroad and they turn away from their homeland.

  • Reply

    angel kumari

    1 month ago

    you are an idiot if you cant see how bad india is. i say that as an indian so there…

  • Reply

    Sneha

    25 weeks ago

    You are kidding me !!!!! Why would any person in thir right mind correlate, India’s obvious problems to it’s food and culture. We never said anything about food or culture or tradition. believe me , one can tolerate anything about India , the dirt, the garbage , the pollution , but crimes against women that too severe terrible horrible crimes , no not tolerable at all .

  • Reply

    bwjohnson49

    3 months ago

    Prats – If only there were about 700 million more of your countrymen as honest as you are about India’s problems. Part of the problem that I saw when I was living in your country was a widespread acceptance and apathy of the status quo. “This is India” was a refrain I heard over and over again.

  • Reply

    Vivek

    3 months ago

    That really made me laugh.

    Do you recall Mitt Romney’s recent comments on the London Olympics? How he was concerned it would fail because of admin screwups and lack of enthusiasm.

    He was not applauded for his honesty. He was called a wazzock and a wanker. Why do you think that happened? Do you see how that is relevant here? I suspect you might not.

    Mark goes to India. He is shocked to find the country is poor. Poor! And dirty. He sees Shit everywhere, even through his shades. He searches for Life’s Lesson in all this. Not finding it, he turns up his iPod and returns disheartened – only to turn to his poison pen to eviscerate that disgusting land.

    According to you, I must read this tripe and break down: “You know Vivek, we should really bathe more often! clean the shit! And while at it, feed the people! Not just the fat ones. Everyone. From tomorrow morning!”

    Because Mark awakened me to the real problem and I was blind to it previously.

    What really worries me is that our leading lights have taken the US neocon philosophy to heart: Hoard personal treasure chests. Create private Elysiums. Screw the people. Lame duck the government. Dodge / grease the bureacracy. As the recent electricity fiasco suggests, that really isn’t any way to run a country of this size. But you could start the Tea Party – India chapter over here in a heartbeat.

    Look forward to more wisdom from your side. Not the empty recital of statistics. If you have solutions, and not statistics, that would make for much better conversation. (Else find another village to spread the Good Word.)

  • Reply

    Vivek

    3 months ago

    Sorry, that note was meant for BWJohnson49.

  • Reply

    Anurag

    29 weeks ago

    > Mark goes to India. He is shocked to find the country is poor. Poor! And dirty. He sees Shit everywhere, even through his shades. He searches for Life’s Lesson in all this. Not finding it, he turns up his iPod and returns disheartened – only to turn to his poison pen to eviscerate that disgusting land.

    Nailed it man.

  • Reply

    bwjohnson49

    3 months ago

    Vivek – If I hadn’t just spent months working in India (your country, not mine) trying to help, I probably wouldn’t feel inclined to comment. I met many Indians with your attitude. You were usually making all kinds of excuses for the misery, corruption, crumbling infrastructure, and disease of India. Tell me, Mr. Vivek, have you ever stepped foot into a ‘public hospital’ in India? Have you ever spent a day in a ‘public school’? Have you ever done any kind of service work anywhere in India? May I suggest that you begin in one of the hundreds of Leprosy Colonies in India? Or perhaps you can tell me all about India’s inept, incompetent, irrelevant educational system after you have spent a week or two teaching children rote memorization of worthless facts. After that, you can visit a maternity ward in an Indian public “hospital”. Be prepared to wear a kerchief over your nose. The stench is overwhelming. Perhaps you can attend a funeral for one of the many small children that fall into your sewage drainage canals and drown every month. Unlike you, I did become part of the effort to make India a better place, not for Indians like you, but for the millions upon millions of impoverished poor who wouldn’t know what a computer is, let alone how to use one. Why don’t you stop whining about why foreigners find your country so distasteful and put your talents to work trying to solve India’s overwhelming problems? Why exactly IS India poor and why exactly IS India a filthy, over-crowded, run-down, broken country trying to pretend that it is emerging as a world economic power? Without the billions of dollars in foreign aid and the help of NGOs, India’s poor would starve to death – and I suspect they would do so without much sympathy from you. Until India can take care of her own problems, she will remain a BEGGAR at the table of international economics and human rights. It’s no laughing matter, Mr. Vivek. Get up off of your comfortable couch and DO something about your country instead of expecting the world to dig you out of your trash and filth. By the way, I served your countrymen long and loyally and I did it all for NOTHING. So much for hoarding treasures, eh, Mr. Vivek?

  • Reply

    Vivek

    3 months ago

    Oh, you’re such a bleeding heart, BWJohnson49.

    If you had any good intentions, you lost it when you chose to make your case on this blog – a rant by a disillusioned tourist.

    Did you really help us? The kind of help that you shout off rooftops? The condescending and calculating “give with one hand; take with another” we see so frequently as part of international aid? Was religion part of the offer?

    A few assumptions you make here, BWJohnson49, without knowing the first thing about me:
    - I do not spend any time in community service
    - I am not the product of a public shool
    - I have not spent time in a public hospital
    Really? Stereotype much, English teacher?

    My turn now:
    Whatever you are, you’re certainly not one among the hundreds of thousands of social workers who toil tirelessly to alleviate suffering. You’re probably that hypocritical creature – the international social worker tourist. Who, after a few days of visiting the “bad places”, shivers with moral outrage and takes to the internet to vent. Your intentions are pretty clear from your carping post.

    India is a beggar – in your dreams. Try saying that out loud when you are around Indians next. But you’re too craven for that, aren’t you, tiger?

    For your next travel plans, try Belgian Congo. Or Zimbabwe. I hear they need moralists and guilt-inducers to get their population moving.

    Oh and if my email is a whine (ha ha), yours is an unhinged rant. Thanks for all the wonderful advice.

  • Reply

    bwjohnson49

    3 months ago

    Actually, Mr. Vivek, I was and am among the hundreds of thousands of social workers who toil tirelessly in your country to alleviate the suffering your own government chooses to ignore. I do not shout it from the rooftops unless I read drivel like yours. Then I just can’t resist.
    Yes, I have actually told people just like you in person that India is and will always be a BEGGAR at the international table until she can step up to the plate and take care of her own people.
    As for my comments being an unhinged rant, I may be a bit prejudiced here, but your response sounded more like a rant. Rage always induces name-calling, disparaging remarks, and judgement calls that have no basis in fact. I suggest you get your rage under control.
    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an English class full of your countrymen waiting for me. I read your last remarks to them as a fine example of how NOT to write a proper English rebuttal and introduced them to a new vocabulary word: Diatribe. You embarrassed an entire class. Progress in India. Slowly, but surely.

  • Reply

    Vivek

    3 months ago

    BWJohnson49, are you really in India now? Because a few posts ago, you said you had been to the place earlier. Make up your mind.

    Lest somebody thinks yours is the voice of Jesus, coming through unfiltered, via Mark’s blog, I had better try and put a face to you:

    - We’ve just established your senility. If you were born in ’49, that makes you ~63 years.

    - Female, possibly spinster? Or widow? That carping tone can only belong to one kind of person.

    - Mormon or Evangelist Born Again? My bet’s on the former. How many souls have you collected so far?

    - English teacher, retirement funds in peril. No wonder you hot-footed it to India.

    - And internet troll to boot. Your wonders never cease.

    Those kids who learn from your hand? Do they know you think so poorly of them? Because scarcely three posts ago, you were badmouthing their English – as if the “low-born” commit a sin to speak poor English. Poor kids!

    (You can teach those kids a new word: troll.)

    So senile-Mormon-lonely-old-woman-troll, I suggest you try Prozac (double strength) instead of spewing venom the next time.

    Signing off now – my sincere condolences to that class of children, if they exist. But I really cannot bandy words with a troll; that would be a waste of my time.

  • Reply

    Aid is the last thing we need

    17 weeks ago

    Ma’am,
    Please leave India. We’ll manage on our own, honest. You are doing no one any good by going to India. Aid cannot help the people there. Please leave.
    An Indian

  • Reply

    Jay Kumar

    3 months ago

    @Johnson,
    Please ignore Shri.”Vivek’s” outbursts. and check link from another “Vivek” “Swamy Vivekananda” which is given below. The link is compilation of lectures on India and her problems delivered by Swamy Vivekananda nearly more than a Century ago which is true even today. Kindly go through the same. No one has Criticised India as Swamy Vivekananda has done and at the same time no one ever has came to her defence as him. India has forgotten her youthful Patriotic Icon today…
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/45589945/Swami-Vivekananda-on-India-and-Her-Problems
    @Mark and Johnson, Kindly spare some time and go through the above link..
    @Vivek, If we Indians wish to see ourselves as being respected by others first we should better accept our own reality. There are so many ironic things that We, Indians refuse to accept or even have the courage to face up to the issue. As long as Indian keep delusions like this India will never make it anywhere. We have the liberty to criticise Indian Government/Indian Railway system/Indian Civic administration/Indian Judicial system/Indian Power supply system and what not.. And when a foreigner criticise them, we, majority of Indians get angry.. on him/them. Why you come to the defence of such inefficient administration which is inexcusable…

  • Reply

    bwjohnson49

    3 months ago

    Vivek – WRONG on every count. And, in defense of my class, they speak, read, and write better English than you do. No one was spewing venom except you.

  • Reply

    svarghese

    2 months ago

    Vivek, I simply do not understand why you should take Mark’s and Johnson’s opinions so personally. They came to India, saw and experienced things which they could never have imagined happened in the world and commented on that. Most of what Mark wrote was exactly what any Indian in any tier-2 or tier-3 cities would experience normally unless you would choose to keep your eyes closed and ears shut.

    Let us not be given to extreme nationalism, let us not deny that there are extremely serious issues, but let us keep doing the right things and avoid the wrong ones. Let us spare some money and effort in any small way possible to get this country out of the mess it is in now. Who knows our children can live in better India and we can spend our sunset years in a much decent place.

  • Reply

    Vivek

    3 months ago

    Hon’ble Shri “Jay Kumar” (since you chose to embellish my name)

    I absolutely welcome an honest conversation about how to get this country going. If you listen for it, there are a million such conversations on – from how to clean up your neighbourhood to treat your maids well and eliminate child labour. The 4-year famine cycle is behind us, but there’s a long long way ahead. Belittling ourselves is not the way forward.

    I have two issues with talking about such issues on this forum in particular:

    - The nose cringing manner in which this subject has been brought up. Do you really think you and I will be clean enough for the likes of Mark and BWJohnson49? That we’ll ever speak English to their incredibly awh-sahm standards? That we’ll ever be “good enough”? No, what is happening here is classic Western supremacist talk, passing judgment on a whole country, i.e. “let me show you what a shithole you live in”.

    - Second, people like you, dear “Jay Kumar”, are always happy to fawn over and accept observations without a thought about underlying motive. There’s a word that describes people like you: “sycophant”. I submit that the disease is endemic to India (especially so in the public sector) and blocks us from original thought and progress. I suggest you begin to think for yourself.

    Thank you for sharing the thoughts of Vivekananda. He had very similar thoughts about wogs and sycophants himself – you may not have liked to meet him in person.

  • Reply

    bwjohnson49

    3 months ago

    Thank you for the link, Kumar. I will be happy to read the link you provided. I am always interested in all things Indian. I have travelled to India three times since December 29, 2011 for a total of five months in your country just this year. My time has been spent teaching English in some of the poorest areas of India including cities and rural areas. I have also treated dental patients and assisted in Maternity wards. At the moment, I am teaching English in a small village about two hours south of Chennai. I appreciated your comments and also your restraint. I know it’s difficult to hear hard things about one’s country from someone who is a citizen of another country. I hope everyone reading this blog understands that I did not visit your country as a tourist. I have never visited any of the popular tourist sites in India. I went to India to help. I’m still helping. Hopefully, that gives me the right to speak truthfully and honestly about what I see and experience. Thanks again for the website suggestion.

  • Reply

    bwjohnson49

    3 months ago

    Vivek – Treat your maids well? That tells me all I need to know about you.

  • Reply

    jay kumar

    3 months ago

    @Vivek, i don’t want to respond to you for calling me as wog and sycophant.. If you have studied about Swamy Vivekananda and about Ramakrishna mission, i think you will not stoop to such an extent. You are ready like to have fruitful discussion with Indians on solving her problem and but at the same time, when some westerners point out Indian’s defects, you go out of board and could not digest those critical views.
    @Johnson, i am herewith link in English to Swamy Vivekananda’s thoughts…
    http://www.dlshq.org/messages/caste.htm
    http://www.belurmath.org/swamivivekananda.htm
    http://www.splib.cc.cc/2011/09/swami-vivekananda-on-india-and-her.html
    -link to compilation of lectures of Swamy Vivekananda on “India and her problems”
    If you would like to know about Swamy Vivekananda, Pl. get in touch with me at [email protected]
    Try to visit Ramakrishna Mutt, at R.K.Math road, Mylapore, Chennai during your stay there… Appreciate your silent social work in India…
    With regards

  • Reply

    Vivek

    3 months ago

    Not me, old chap. The other “Vivek” had a problem with your types.

    From the Complete Works of Vivekananda:

    “That cringing, sycophant attitude common to natives even [English] sweepers do not possess…”
    Volume 7

    “…Bound hand and foot by sycophancy and flatteries…they [India] soon became a cheap and ready prey to invaders from the West.”
    “…like a flock of sheep, a string of puppets…”
    Volume 4

    Google for the complete works and you should be able to find these quotes. Blind worship of a great soul is all very well. Understanding might be better.

    Oh, and if I have gone out of board as you suggest, feel free to block/ban me. Easy. Tempting?

  • Reply

    bwjohnson49

    3 months ago

    Jay Kumar – Thank you for the website suggestions. I did spend some time reading your first website suggestion and I gained some understanding and insights that I appreciated. One of the ongoing problems I have with teaching Indian children is the relative lack of printed reading materials that are culturally sensitive and relevant to India. I did find a small publishing house in Chennai that specializes in books for children that are about India. I nearly bought them out! By the way, some people on this post have assumed that I get paid for what I do in India. I do not. On the contrary, I estimate that I have spent over $20,000 over my own money providing services and supplies. I appreciated very much your indication of gratitude. It meant a lot to me, personally.

    When I have spent some time on the websites you suggested, I’ll email you with questions. Take care.

  • Reply

    Roko

    3 months ago

    Great piece of writing Mark!! I had to read it over a couple of times to get its’ real magnitude (like a Nolan’s flick). What you have said, what you have felt is absolutely true and no one can deny it. There are still very good stuff prevalent in India but it is the usual case – the bad stuff outnumbers it and is way too glaring. The biggest fault with Indians (okay let us say most people) is they DO NOT accept reality or the fact that they are at fault. They criticize others but cannot take it themselves. Progress can be seen only when you accept reality, see for yourself what is at fault and then strive to improve them – which is impossible here. The care-free attitude and negligence of the people, the way with which they break a rule without a second thought, attitude to easily blame others or not taking up responsibilities coupled with corruption has made this wonderful country what it is now. Just saying that India was dominated for over two centuries, it was plundered are all just a farce. Celebrating 66 years of freedom is not a big deal, the only question is what did you do all these 66 years ? Wish India never got freedom at all! Lakshmi Mittal rightly pointed out that things are growing in India but not the people and I do not see it to be a super power or a developed nation in the near future. Like Gotham it has become more than repairable and with no Batman around the already waning so called “rich legacy” will slowly fade out. It is indeed sad to see that happen but yeah that is the truth.
    But all these apart, it was indeed a good read!

  • Reply

    raman

    29 weeks ago

    My humble suggestion: your comments about the countrymen you teach was simply derogatory. do us all a favour. Please do NOT help us. get out of india. let us rot in our own dung. you are not required by us. just get out.

  • Reply

    BillH

    3 months ago

    Hi,

    Although there seems to be a lot of apologists here of East Indian background, i’d like to say that he didn’t do the requisite research necessary prior to an India trip. I traveled in India for 2 months (first time there) from Dec 2011 to Feb 2012. I had a great time and India is an awesome country. It was freaking epic. Goto Indiamike.com and read all of the posts and forums. Read blogs about India before you go and read your Lonely Planet. And start in the south of the country and finish in the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra and Jaipur).

    You weren’t really in India long enough, nor did you visit areas outside of the worst tourist traps in the country. Even the Lonely Planet will tell you that the Golden Triangle is full of hassles.

    Even in Delhi, there are a lot of really nice neighbofhoods with malls, nightclubs, restaurants, etc that are basically no different than in the U.S. They also have Time Out Delhi, it’s pretty freaking easy to figure out. And often times, i’d just ask people. Even hot chicks. And they were mostly very friendly and helpful and genuinely happy to assist a foreigner.

    There’s a ton of people i met who spent LONG periods traveling or even living in India. I’m sure they would have left if it was so intolerable. I even met a TON of Koreans traveling independently in India. In Udaipur, they were like 40 or 45% of the tourists. I met a young attractive Korean girl traveling by herself and hadn’t even graduated high school yet, and she was having a GREAT time.

    I just had so many great experiences in India, it would be hard to sum up. But here’s my short list of tips:
    1. Visit the Golden Triangle last.
    2. Avoid the tourist areas until you have some time in India under your belt.
    3. Learn to bargain. Find out the actual price for things by asking other travelers or even ask other locals. They’ll tell you the real price.
    4. Have street smarts. Learn about the major scams on Indiamike.com.
    5. Take a mosquito net, take your shots.
    6. Buy some Norfloxacin, Metronadizole, anti diaherral powder and probiotics.

    I only got really sick once. I was sick for about 2 days and had to stay in my hotel room. By the end of the trip, i was even drinking the water in restaurants out of those rickety silver cups.

  • Reply

    aseem

    3 months ago

    yes

  • Reply

    aseem

    3 months ago

    ABSOLUTELY

  • Reply

    Anotherone

    1 month ago

    In 2011-12, NRI remittances were $66.13 billion ( Rs. 3,42,884.05 crore), against an FDI inflow of $46.84 billion into the country. (http://www.hindustantimes.com/business-news/nris-beat-fdi-keep-the-money-coming/article1-941337.aspx)

    It has a huge impact on the economy – bolsters India’s foreign reserves. It is almost 4% of India’s GDP.

    You need to.. may be …check facts / understand economics a tad?

    Brain drain is a different deal – but, why is there brain drain in the first place?
    Is it due to a lack of opportunities? Lack of infrastructure? Lack of good governance?

    Fix that first before blaming people for looking at greener pastures.

    Indians or otherwise, people live and strive to better their livelihood, their future, their children’s future. If there is a dreath of avenues in one place , they move to another. That is natural – there is nothing to be ashamed of that / there is no need for pointing fingers.
    (eg: poor economic situation in Bihar, drives the natives of Bihar to other states in search of job opportunities/better facilities).

    Humans as a race thrived cause we were smart enough to migrate, explore and exploit opportunities (on other shores).

  • Reply

    Sanj

    1 month ago

    You’re an idiot.
    The ‘lost revenues’ are used for the garlands that Mayawati wear (remember those? Made of crumpled 1000 buck notes?)
    And don’t you realise for someone wanting a better life, India is Not the solution?
    Most of us next-gen “kids” do not see it as our responsibilty. We did not fuck it up. We are tired of it. In fact, some of us ‘NRI’ haven’t even grown up here. Most of us think the exact same things Mark has written in this post. So Why would we want to do shit for a country who treats us like shit? For a country where a girl gets raped in a bus by Five people And a metal rod, where female foeticide is so common not even the police bats an eye, where all children Must be doctors, engineers, or lawyers or be called shit useless for the rest of their lives, where I can’t even Study because over 50% of all seats in all institutions are Reserved for people who don’t score, don’t study and are going to end up doing Nothing at all in that field or any related field.

  • Reply

    We do no need aid

    17 weeks ago

    I went through the article and comments. I have one reaction that perhaps many others have had. This is an entreaty for Ms. Johnson — Ma’am, please go back! You are doing nobody any good – neither yourself nor your students, nor India as whole. Please go back. Go home. Live life! Have fun! But please leave India alone. We’ll fix ourselves! Seriously! But please, you go back home! With regards from one living in India.

  • Reply

    Bob Morgan

    11 weeks ago

    Actually, the opposite is true. The Indians residing abroad are very helpful, by sending useful foreign currency, helping establishing businesses back home with their expertise, and like Dr. Rajan (who is a professor @UChicago), taking up important policy jobs in the government-like Central Bank Chairman. In a broad sense, the overseas Indians are very important because they act as a bridge between the Indians and the rest of the world.

  • Reply

    JM

    3 weeks ago

    A lot o them wouldn’t have made it to where they are had they stayed on.

  • Reply

    Kartik

    28 weeks ago

    I loved your comments on this post. What a waste of time this writer is.

  • Reply

    Bharti

    15 weeks ago

    I think the writer had visited only worse parts of India. If he had visited northern , north-eastern parts of our country and some western parts(like Rajasthan , Gujrat ) ,then he understood what is nature? What is culture?We too have beautiful mountains(not consist of your so called word “GARBAGE”)….and specially greenery(especially in central region of INDIA)………some foreign countries are creating pollutions and they are making neat and clean environment by cutting more and more trees…….they are creating problems for us…… If our country is facing problems we are harmful for us only…..and not for you…..We are very labourious, well cultured,and devotional…..all are not here looters,rapists and unhygenical ……

  • Reply

    Nivedha

    13 weeks ago

    Your comment is top-notch. I am Indian, I live in India, and I am indeed tired of it. To quote Megadeth, don’t ask what you can do for your country – ask what your country can do for you.

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