Warning….. Not to be read before eating!
Over another Indian state line to Bihar and it seems they are happy enough with their state, thank goodness one Indian state in five. I am not happy though as Bihar is perhaps the poorest place I have ever been to. Very much underdeveloped, perhaps one of the poorest in all of India, perhaps a bit like sub-Saharan Africa.
Why do I write this blog… Perhaps in the hope that Indians may read this and be ashamed of what the world is reading about their country and react in a positive manner by asking their government to get the preverbial finger out and start fixing their country. One expat woman only this morning said to me that despite the problems India still is able to operate.
I wonder how a country of 1,2 billion cannot have proper services or infrastructure what with the huge tax intake there must be but later it was explained to me that only 3% of Indians pay any tax. It is a belief that the poor are not liable for taxation. I remember that in Latin America there was a way of taxing the trashy businesses and those on the breadline.
No I am not talking about taking the needy but I have read that 20% of the Indian workforce works in Government jobs, so surely they must pay a considerable amount towards the exchequer.
From state line to state line from West Bengal to Utar Pradesh the roads in Bihar are literally lined in shit, buffalo and cow. As disgusting as this is its also very sad.
Women, always women with their bare hands collect and mold the dung into patties or sods to be used for fuel. They moisten it by pouring water over it, shape it and stack it to dry out before stacking it in huge heaps in their fields or along the roadside. I do not see any sales of it, I cant imagine a rickshaw driver allowing a heap of this stuff into his precious overloaded three-wheeler in which passengers are hanging out the side and even on the roof. I understand it’s a community fuel effort for the villages.
The men have the easy jobs working in the dhabas or driving like lunatics down the highways.
Cows and Buffalo’s eat hay and grass outside houses, almost up as far as their door ways. Then they do their business all over their gardens and as I have said right up to the houses where the children play. It is then duly collected for stacking.
I am told there is a shortage of wood for the large population as the north of India is so congested where most of he population is located. So dung is a natural recyclable fuel source. Because of this shortage people don’t bother to boil water to purify it as in Indonesia and other Asian countries.
I wondered many times if India could possibly be even more primitive than even Myanmar. I think so. I not it’s not a test of modernity but even in Myanmar tissues are provided when eating, usually in the form of a toilet roll in a specially designed holder for restaurants. In eastern India they give you pieces of paper cut from a newspaper, each piece the size of a paper back page. Then they stopped giving them out, and remember everyone eats with their hands, they say it tastes better, I don’t know about that and I don’t want to sound like a pampered tourist but I can’t do this. Sometimes when I ask for a spoon they have to search, occasionally they laugh and on one occasion there was a commentary going on about me eating my meal with a spoon as yet another crowd looked on! Toothpicks are rare, I have asked and been given a match. They don’t even have the ramshackle toilet, or hole in the floor anymore, just a large field, makes things a little easier to recycle I guess!
When I asked an American NGO if the women washed their hands I was told not to think of these things in India!
There was so much of it on the shoulder of the road that I had to run out on the road! And yes just like road dust gathers on my feet and running pants, so too did this stuff
One day there was so much of it on the black tarmac, about 50/50 I thought of it as a roulette table. Ladies and gents, I thought, Take your pick brown or black, throw your dice. So I threw a coin, Let’s just say I didn’t retrieve it!
The women made huge bales of it like Irish turf stacking it in the fields, on the crash barriers or at the side of their houses.
I have read that in parts of India and Pakistan these sods can power generators. The dung doesn’t stink or attract flies and even houses are constructed from it just like mud houses.
One day when the road was particularly very bad, heavy traffic and narrow I noticed a trail parallel to the road so I started running on it. I ran on and on through these bales. I passed shocked women, one screamed and another picked up a big stick. I ran till I got as far as I could till the bales blocked the trail before reverting back onto the road.
Many Indian people don’t seem to care about modesty, several times a day I see people squatting down for a number two right at the side of the road in full view and they mix it with all the cow and buffalo stuff. One man then ran over his pants still down to a puddle and splashed his bottom from the rain water! People don’t seem to bother looking for a hedge they just pee and crap in full view. Even when traveling in a vehicle they don’t seem to bother shielding themselves from the public, they just pull it all out!
I tell you I have seen more male genitalia on the highways of India than a lifetime in the changing rooms and showers of gymnasiums, football clubs and running clubs!
Yes Bihar state was such a filthy place I was genuinely worried of picking up some kind of airborne infection. All this and the roadside litter and huge rubbish dumps at the entrance to every village,town and city.
One day I was running and saw four dogs attacking a lamb which was tied to a second terrified lamb by a short rope. They had ripped the poor animals throat and no doubt would have started on the second afterwards. I rushed from the road and chased away the dogs. Soon a crowd of Indians gathered and did what Indians do best…. Just stand and stare. I searched for my razor blade to cut the rope to free the second lamb while the attacked one died in front of my eyes.. I will always remember the sad terrified look in its eyes.
Next night I slept in a dhaba/ restaurant and watched a dog chance a mouse having let it slip out of his mouth four times. Funny I did not have the same sympathy for the mouse as I was glad it was rid from my sleeping area. There is hardly a place I stop for refreshments where I do not see mice.
I ran on through this horrible state of Bihar through filthy villages with pigs wallowing in the muck and mounds of plastic bottles. Cows wander the crowded roads and drivers honk and honk their vehicles with the most annoying sirens, often long and loud tunes or the sound of an emergency vehicle, which I would have thought to be illegal, but this is India, like most of the developing world, very little law is enforced.
Hindu Indians believe in life after death, I wonder what sins people committed in a past life to deserve this Hell on earth. The more I travel the more I appreciate how lucky I was to be born in Ireland, all it’s problems and all. I remember when I worked in construction back there I had many Romanian friends working with me. They told me about the real hardships in life in Romania and laughed at the pampered Irish that even in an economic meltdown Ireland was a Heaven and earth to them.
A thought occurred to me, perhaps a controversial one.. Leaving health hazards aside… Why should we in the west care if these people insist on thrashing their villages.. They are dirt blind it seems.. Should a priority be made by their local governments to spend their small funds on a clean up when people could use that same money for food? Even if it the roadsides are cleaned up you know what’s going to happen to dispose all the tyres, plastic bags and bottles.. They are going to be burnt and I remember what that was like in Indonesia.
My point is this… Is it better for the environment if trash rubbish garbage call it what you like is just left there… After all these people don’t care and how many western eyes will never set sight on their mess. I remember when I ran through Singapore, in a few hours!! The sight of the rubbish and weed burn off which was drifting over from Sumatra, Indonesia to Singapore. Singapore, just to be neighborly puts up with a small amount of this pollution but recently it was so bad they lodged an official complaint to the Indonesian government.
Many people are poor but few are time poor and can clean up outside their houses and villages if they wish.. Clearly nothing is ever taught about this in schools.
The further west I run in India the less English seems to be understood much to my surprise. I am told the less populated south of India is more affluent.
On I ran towards Delhi clocking up my 40,000th kilometer of the run. I continued sleeping in the dhabas for often there was no other possibility. I can not remember even one pretty vista since leaving the mountains of Manipur over 1,500km ago. This route across India is without doubt the first ugly country I have ever visited in my life, always some eyesore in the foreground or background ruining what could be a pretty sight. I am sure if I was to take the time and explore many of the small towns and villages that the interiors of many old forts and buildings would have some dazzling architecture, but I don’t stop to explore for I am just a highway man.
I wonder will the Taj Mahal over1,000km away be the next and only pretty sight in all of my north Indian route. I wonder how far from the Taj will the crap all begin again.