Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Rollin' On The River

Traffic in Delhi is very different from anything I ever saw in Arizona. I have been told that a former expat, who lived here until just over a year ago, once said that traffic in the US is like a production line in a factory while traffic in India is more like a river. Now, he was a pretty smart and eloquent guy, so I am sure it sounded a lot better when he said it, but the message is still true. It really doesn't matter where the lines are, whether or not there is a traffic light, or even if a small child is selling magazines in the middle of the road, everything just flows around it.

I have always loved people watching, and on the streets of Delhi there is always something to see. I have actually considered keeping a camera in the car to document some of the bizarre things we see everyday as we move about the city, but, just like Alice in Wonderland, although I give myself such very good advice, I very rarely follow it. Luckily, it seems that almost every electronic gadget has a camera in it, so we have caught a few good ones.

This first one is a video I stole from YouTube. It isn't here in Delhi, you can tell because if it was in Delhi there would be about a thousand more cars and several cows, but it is a good example of the free for all driving that is common here.

We were recently sideswiped by...

An ox cart! No lie.

This is a very common sight.
(See the leg from passenger number 4 poking out?
Don't even get me started on the whole side saddle thing!)

If you study very hard while you are here...

Perhaps you can land a job here!

Speaking of jobs, I don't see this one in my future.
(Of course with the market being the way it is, who knows?)

Despite the spelling being a little off, the thought of an automated mohel had
Mr. Smith crossing his legs.

Speaking of the spelling being off...

I hope you enjoyed our little show. Maybe I'll put that camera in the car after all.
P.S. I hope you like the special October pictures over on the left. Don't worry, I still hate Halloween.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"Things That Go CRASH In The Night" or "What Did You Say?!" as told by Mrs. Smith

It was a dark and stormy night, the wind howled angrily as lightening flashed across the sky. Suddenly, Mr. and Mrs. Smith heard a loud rumble followed by several ear splitting crashes! Knowing from experience that this could only mean that large stone tiles had fallen off the side of the house, Mrs. Smith ran out into the violent storm yelling, "Where is the guard?! Find the guard!" You see, Mrs. Smith secretly feared that one day a stone tile would fall and crush the poor guard who often placed his chair up against the house. Luckily the guard had taken refuge from the storm in the utility room and was safe and sound. "Thank goodness!" said Mrs. Smith.

A few days later some very nice men came to replace the broken tiles. Some other men brought large pieces of stone to be cut into tiles and still others brought a large pile of dirt to help make a magic glue that would hold those silly stones on the wall.

"But wait," one man said, "even this magic glue made of dirt will not hold these large pieces of stone up. We need something stronger."

"Hmmm..." said the men who brought the dirt.
"Hmmm..." said the men who brought the stone.
"Hmmm..." said the men who came to replace the broken tiles.

Finally someone came up with a brilliant idea. "Let us drill a hole...

in every corner...

of every tile...

over the whole house.

Then, we can put a post in every hole in every corner of every tile over the whole house to make it a very strong house indeed!"

"Yes, let's!" cried the men who brought the dirt.
"Yes, let's!" cried the men who brought the stone.
"Yes, let's!" cried the men who came to replace the broken tiles.

So, that is what they did. They drilled, and they drilled, and they drilled... and they drilled. Soon, people in the neighborhood began to wonder why that nice American family up the street all looked so cranky and why they were all plugging their ears, but mostly the people wondered why they had all developed eye ticks. "Those funny Americans," all the people exclaimed, "they really are too amusing! What would we do without them to entertain us with their crazy antics?"

The moral of this story is two fold. First, when living in India one should always own a reliable pair of ear plugs, and second, American Sign Language is awfully useful.
The End. (What? You couldn't hear me over all the drilling?)
The End!
The E... Oh forget it!

In the mean time, Skater Girl wants to make sure everyone knows that tiles aren't the only things that have been falling out of place aroung the Smith household.
Skater Girl's current stats: 5 teeth lost, 1 grown back, 1 loose.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mrs. Smith's Wish List

I wish I didn't have to write this post. I knew several days ago that I was going to write it, but I put it off because it presented me with two problems: First, it deals in part with subjects that I have purposely avoided on this blog. Second, I find it difficult to write about the evil that men do.

I wish I was surprised. On Saturday evening a total of five bombs went off in three market places in Delhi. Markets that we like to visit, but luckily were nowhere near. More than 20 people were killed and many more injured. In the last year there have been bombings in several major cities around India, so it was only a matter of time before they hit Delhi. Actually, according to the local paper it has been going on for three years and it was in October of 2005, almost three years ago exactly, that Delhi had it's last large bombing. This latest one was claimed by the Indian Mujahideen who says the bombings were in retaliation for the oppression of Muslims in India.

Before we become too comfortable with our stereotypes, there is a group of militant Hindus that are causing just as much death and destruction in southern India. Everyday we read about beatings, stonings and church burnings. Those responsible say that their actions are in response to forced conversions of Hindus to Christianity. Obviously India is experiencing religious unrest on a large scale right now.

I wish my story ended there. It seems we are experiencing some religious unrest on a small scale in our neighborhood. My family belongs to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon church. For the first several months of our stay in India we attended church in Delhi. Eventually we were asked to hold meetings in our home. The hope was that having services outside of Delhi would make it easier for those who lived further out to attend. A few months ago we outgrew our living room and the church rented a building for us to meet in. I was excited about the new building because it was within walking distance of our home but not actually in our home. (The only thing harder than getting a bunch of kids up and ready for church is keeping your house spotless while you do it.) We knew that we might have some problems establishing a new Christian congregation in a country that is 80% Hindu, but we were still surprised when the problems started.

I wish violence was not a political tool. First it was our sign. Most Mormon buildings have a plaque on an outside wall identifying it as a church. Within 20 minutes of putting our plaque up, we received a call from our landlord saying that he was receiving complaints from the neighborhood watch group. We knew the sign fell well within the rules for signs in the neighborhood, but we also knew it was a fight we would not win, so we removed the plaque. Next came rumours about what our members and our missionaries were doing. The rumours were false, but I am sure they hit their mark before we were able to set the record straight.

Finally, last Sunday, as we were gathering, a woman approached the church and told those in front of our building that we had to stop holding meetings. According to her there were those that wished us harm. She claimed to have stopped two such people already. She assured us that if we tried to meet this coming week, the rocks would fly and she would be unable to stop them. After a little investigation into the situation, it appears that someone hopes to gain local political power by using the ousting of our small congregation as a rallying point.

I wish it wasn't true. Religion and violence seem to be linked, despite the fact that most religions preach against it. I wonder how much of it is justified and how much is caused by ignorance and misunderstandings. For example, I considered including three pictures at the top of this post. First, a picture of Ganesh, second, a picture of Jesus and third, a picture of Muhammad. As I looked for images I was surprised by how few pictures there were of Muhammad. The explanation I eventually found was this, Muslims don't have images of anything with a soul because it could lead to idolatry. If that is true, how many people might have I offended with my innocent banner?

I wish I didn't know. Now as I walk around the neighborhood I find myself wondering about the people I see. Would the boy who sells us bread throw a rock? Would the men who say hello to us in the park turn a blind eye? Would the women who smile and nod when we pass in the street come to defend my children? It hurts to think that the people with whom we have tried to become friendly, could turn to violence with a few emotionally charged phrases.

I wish I understood.