Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Dear Mother In Law, Don't Read This Post!

India is very proud of it's accomplishments. Just ask any educated person here in Delhi. The large cities are flourishing. New business is pouring in, the rupee is gaining on the dollar, real estate is booming, education is a priority and the arts are revered. Everyone is happy to tell you about the changes to the area as they prepare for the Common Wealth games in 2010. Not to mention the increased attention to athletics in the schools over the last several years to make sure India didn't put on a good show, only to be embarrassed in the games themselves. If you spend time talking to the affluent and educated in the city you get a picture of India that is diverse, beautiful and hopeful. The new money along with the history and traditions of India seem to give the upper class a feeling of superiority and a sense of getting the recognition that they have deserved for a long time.

The society that I find myself a part of is very based on appearances. Bragging is part of every introduction and most conversations. New cars sport ribbons on the hood for months. School programs are high pressure affairs and are practiced for months with an eye towards making the school look good. Everything is turned into an auspicious occasion with important and honored guests. But he truth is that this is still a third world country with a violent streak, and the longer I live here, the more I wonder how much longer they can fool themselves.

This is a recent example. In the US if a married man sent out invitations for his wedding to a second wife, he would be arrested and probably sued by at least one person. In India it went down like this: The groom, who had been separated from his first wife for many years, gladly excepted a proposed match, made by his aunt, to a beautiful 18 year old girl. An agreement was reached between the families and the wedding was planned. On the day of the wedding, right before the actual ceremony was about to take place (which I think I have mentioned is about 3 days into the whole affair and about 8 hours into that days events) several men in the party decide that having two wives is morally wrong. So they grab the groom and beat him brutally. Then they find the aunt who made the match and beat her for her part. I can only be grateful that it was a man taking a second spouse, because I can guarantee that if it was a woman, she would not have survived the affair.

Hindu beliefs teach that it is wrong to want to improve your station in life. This has held the caste system in place for many years. But how long will the lower classes allow the rich to get richer without demanding some of it for themselves? Not much longer. And in a country where violence, although preached against, is so much a part of the culture, I can't imagine that it will be a quiet or polite request for equality. Everyday there are stories of riots, or protests in the rural areas that went wrong. How long before this battle reaches the city?


Hunnydu72 said...

You took my babies to a war zone??? What???

It sounds like India's economy is having growing pains! Not everything that grows improves, but then as Americans we believe that even those born in the most impoverished circumstances deserves a chance to earn a better life. I can't imagine the upper class of India subscribes to that theory, but change rarely satisfies everyone.

Of course, the only violence I want to hear about is that done to anyone who hurts one of my Smiths! Grrrr...

Toni said...

I think the violence here is similar, but more lethal in a broader sense. If you're upset with a teacher, go and shoot up the entire class. If you were fired from your job, go and shoot up the office. If you are upset with your estranged wife, go and shoot all your kids, then shoot your wife. If you're upset with your girlfriend, go and shoot everyone at the mall.

We also have our lower class caste system. We have our dirt poor. On the one hand we tell them they have every right to a better life, just get up and work hard and you will get it. On the other hand they are kept from improving their situation due to bigotry, prejudice, an inadequate public education system, and a ridiculously expensive higher education. It's getting hard even for the middle class to improve a deteriorating (because of costs) way of life.

However, when we have to run errands, we feel relatively safe from kidnapping or stoning. We aren't really too worried about a social uprising and revolt. And while we are afraid of allowing our kids outside unsupervised, we can allow them out the front door for a short errand without having to accompany them the minute the door is open.

I think that all of us should have the opportunity to live in a third world country so that we can gain an appreciation and gratitude for what we have, work hard to keep what we are blessed with and gain back what we have lost.

Monique said...

Scott and Amy - Thank you for sharing a bit of your endeavors in India.
I am really enjoying seeing another world through your family's adventures and admire your bravery and character as you learn from the culture and probably teach them something as well.

Keep safe and well.

Aunt Carol said...

Scott and Amy the heading of this article will be sure to make Marilyn read it. haha

Third world countries make you appreciate America alot more. Dennis' trip to Brazil was an eye opener.

Love to you and the kids. Hugs from me

Marilyn said...

I read it, I read it. I was worried because you were so close to Pakastan, now I am just worried because you are in India.

Glad you have security at your house.

Love to you two and the kids.

Mr. Smith Goes to Delhi said...

An interesting side note to anyone who reads the comments, I asked how long before the battle reaches the city, not long at all. A group that has been rioting and protesting just south of us for weeks decided that they were too easy to ignore. So today they blocked all the major roads into New Delhi. Scott took the day off. In the past the group has been around thirty thousand strong. I will be interested to find out if they had more or less people with them today.

Mr. Smith's Brother said...

Each society deals with its inequities in roughly the same way. We had a caste system in this country until the Civil War (some would argue that we still do) and it took a war to begin the ending of it. India will find its way, but like every other country which deals with this type of issue (ours included) the timeframe for resolution will be measured in centuries, not decades.

I love your commentary. It brings me there. There is definitely a book in this experience for you.

mr. smith said...

The intersection near my office was blocked for hours, and there was a road right around the corner from our neighborhood that was not only blocked, but where vehicles were burned and people were beaten.

I asked someone from work about this issue, and his take was that this group is filled with rich people who want more, and they are using the poor among them as pawns in their game. I guess the world really doesn't change... except all the ice is melting. That is a change.

Aunt Carol said...

You better hope "Marilyn" doesn't read the comments. She will come over there and bring you back home and not let you off the block. :-)

I think Ben is having a great time driving Bill and Marilyn around and I am sure they love it too. Now if I could just get my "Auntie" fix.