"Exhibiting You" - Story

Which India Should We Show Them?

By: joyshri
Submitted: 02/09/2009

They are just voices from another continent. We have talked over the phone but often their nasal, twangy sentences are hard to comprehend. They do not ennunciate words as clearly as we do. They tend to speak fast and lay stress on syllables not in keeping with the Queen’s English. They are my son’s peers and have befriended him as an undergrad. Their families introduced him to the wonders and hospitality of the USA. It will be our pleasure to return the favour. Photographs on my desk-top reveal a master race – once Hitler’s dream! – with fresh faces, above average heights, beautiful eyes and hair.

We want to show them the real India, with all its diverse people, warmth, traditional hospitality, unsurpassable street foods and varied landscapes. We want to introduce them to our historic monuments that sometimes date back to the early BCs. Looking at the noble profiles of ethnic Americans, I often wonder if our kinsmen traversed the high seas to settle in that rich land. The Incas, Peruvians and Indians of South America, all seem to have the same features and colour as us.

Their first stops are Delhi’s mosques, forts, mausoleums and ancient bazaars. From there they visit Fatehpur Sikri to get the feel of that ancient capital. Along the way they will see all there is, before they take an early morning elephant ride along Rajasthan’s desertways. We hope they can see a tiger at Ranthambhore before they join us at Chandigarh as we show them Corbusier’s modern marvel and Nek Chand’s Rock Garden. These are young adults from the Big Apple and have seldom seen large animals in the wild. One of them told me he had grown up amongst pigeons, doves and squirrels that nested on New York’s high rise window sills. A few days on the beaches at Goa and a houseboat through the backwaters of Kerala will give them a glimpse of touristy India. Will they take back other pictures too?

Today, the Indian sparrow and crow are an endangered species as is the tiger. The summer smell of Delhi speaks of garbage and decay so unlike their sanitised country. The slums, so much a reality of every growing Indian town, house the poorest of poor who survive due to indomitable spirits, smiles, tremendous patience and fortitude. They eke out a living from salvaged throw-aways. Most have never held a pencil in their hands. I spend a few hours a week in one of these settlements and would like to take my young guests there, to understand one of the realities of modern India. Will they see the child/mother with one arm and three infants as she begs for coins in Sector 17, the most exclusive shopping area of the city? Will they notice the malnourished children outside eating places, as they forage for food, sharing space with stray cows and dogs? Will they be disgusted or will they show compassion and understanding? Will they question the inequalities of the world or will they accept them? Will they be able to understand why corruption is such a driving force in poorer countries? If they can fathom even one of these realities they will have become wiser by the end of the trip and will make a great difference to the global community.

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