The Poor in India
We are spoiled here in America.
I’ve seen what Communism has done in Cuba and with the Caste system so alive and well in India, I feel so fortunate to live where and when I do. In both cases though, the people are super nice, kind and happy.
I was gone 19 days, 12 days to help photograph some projects my church has done. Not only do we support 2 local pastors, but 12 widows, 60 orphans, and have built over 40 water wells and some rest rooms. This first blog is about my time in southern India with the 3 other members of our group in that ministry. The next one will be of the three tourist days I had in Agra (Taj Mahal) and Delhi and the last blog, the two days in Dubai.
I have so many photographs to share, I apologize!
The first thing that hits you once you arrive in India is the driving.
Portugal was bad, passing on curves and fitting in between 2 lanes of traffic (AND I drove). But India? Fortunately, the local Indian pastor drove with the troves of bicycles, Pedicabs, motor scooters & cycles, pedestrians, autos (like tuk-tuks), trucks and cars all narrowly missing each. It was like a synchronized dance dizzying to ones visual and audio sensibilities. (Horns honk constantly for awareness issues.) But I never saw an accident. Amazing.
The second thing is the poverty. (Third? The pollution and garbage.)
To best read this blog, read the left column first, then the center, then the right. :-)
We visited a widows home, where my church supports 12 ladies (65-81 years old), and paid for 1/2 of the building to be built. It’s run by a local Christian worker.
I arrived in Vijayawada (Southern India) where we visited 3 untouchable camps. WHO are the Untouchables?
There are 3 main caste systems In India with sub categories totaling 12 groups. All are noted on one’s ID card.
The top caste includes the Brahman and the 3 classes within [not caste] which includes the politicians, actors and models. Light skinned, you don't see ads with the dark skinned lower castes in them. The second tier caste may be in politics or TV but not ads.
The third level caste are most of the pastors and their families and who we are working with.
Outside and below these 12 classes are 3 groups of the poorest in India. They aren't even considered a caste but below that.
These 3 groups include field hand laborers, but the lowest of all are called the untouchables. Few in India wants much to do with them. The Untouchables live in palm tree shacks along seldom used roads near towns and aren't allowed in some stores and sometimes even poor street vendors won't sell them a piece of fruit. They make money by picking up and redeeming cardboard and plastic and catch rats in the rice fields for protein.
The government has forced schools to educate them but other times the local government will come and demolish their make shift shacks. The Caste system is based on Hindu philosophy about karma and reincarnation. There is no reason to lift them up because of their past life. Religion or a world-view does affect how one acts.
These pastors and what University Fellowship supports are the 3 lowest groups. 13,14 & 15. Many are forced to defecate in the open and get water from polluted sources so building a water well and a bathroom for community use is a huge benefit for them.
Because of the love shown by the local pastors and the building of wells and restrooms, many have become Christians. It's such a worthy use of ones giving.
Some quick notes:
I love the coffee (due to the sweetness of Water Buffalo milk) and the basmati rice of southern India.
LOVE The colors of India. The sarees are gorgeous and new ones cost $3 on up. Worn only by married and widowed women. The young girls still wear colorful outfits as well.
They grow a LOT of food in the south: Rice, Tobacco, Beans, Peppers, etc. Cows pooping in the field is a sign of blessing.
Putting one’s hands together in front of your face to show appreciation is an INDIAN thing-irrespective of religions or class.
Giving $40 a month will enable a lower caste child to attend a private school where they learn English. That skill will offer them a permanent way out of poverty later.
If you want to contact to donate, go to this link (and click on any of the 3 options for India).
Things I learned:
The dot between the eyes is a Hindu practice stating I’m serious about my religion-it represents a 3rd eye.
Open sewers creates smells I don’t care for.
India will overtake China in 5 years as the most populated in the world, even though it’s only the 7th largest country.
Hindus see cows as the ultimate level of reincarnation, thus they don’t eat beef.
95% of the marriages in India are fixed.
Marriages are incredible expensive due to the dowry. Indians LOVE gold!
There are 29 states in India and 22 main (7 dominant ones) languages, Hindi is the most common. In the south they speak Telugu. (Wanda Nalu is like Aloha).
The food IS spicy, especially in the south where most eat with their right hand.
Toilet paper is not the norm for most places…thus the left hand.
The government DOES have affirmative action programs for the folks below the 2nd castes.
Murders due to marriages between castes still happen today. In fact one happened 3 months before we arrived in a town 50 miles away. The perpetrators served 12 days in jail.
It’s acceptable for all classes for the parents to beat their children (on the head) and for husbands to beat their wives. (The couple that led the trip spent time giving seminars to local pastors, leaders and their wives on what the bible teaches about loving your wife and children to counter this cultural issue.)
Someone asked me, How has India changed you? It’s made me more compassionate to those who don’t have much, forcing me to see what really matters in this life (the loss of my wife did that to a higher degree), and realizing I don’t need much to be happy. I want to get rid of stuff and give $ to support the worthy causes that can use all the help we can offer. NOT out of guilt, but compassion.
It’s made me appreciate the life I have here in America, where the government ISN’T persecuting me because of my Christianity. India is getting worse for Christians and Muslims due the Modi government and Hindu extremists. If I said I was coming in to help a Church group I would have been denied entry. In fact I can’t list the pastors names or folks I went with as they could be denied entry next time or persecuted. Pray that Gandhi gets electing this year. Cuba made me appreciate my freedom. India, my day to day life.
I could write a book about my experiences in Southern India…I learned and saw so much, but feel free to write or email me if you have any questions. I would encourage you to go with a church group or folks who are serving those unfortunates. It is NOT comfortable, but it will change you for the better. :-)