Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Kvetch Beyond Borders

Too tired for a clever subtitle

Unless you are critically ill (say, recovering from malaria in the hospital), never, ever try for the in-country visa extension through the FRRO. Just bite the bullet and leave the country.

It takes forever - in this case, nearly 2 weeks - and though they tantalizingly leave open "amount of extension requested," in fact they never grant more than 2 weeks. So, it took me 2 weeks to get 2 more weeks. And, about five various office trips. The icing on the cake will be a personal visit from a police officer to my hotel tomorrow morning "sometime before 1pm" (sounds like waiting for the cable guy).

Supposedly this will help him with "verification of (my) activities" (I'm sitting in a hotel - I could actually be doing anything, not sure what this will prove).

After the ennervating morning at the RK Puram FRRO (I wish I could have taken photos...it was like Central Casting. Afghanis in full turbans, Africans with braided hair, women in burqas, Burmese monks in orange robes) I went for a long walk in Lodi Gardens. After watching a family of wild green parrots nestle down for the night (they live in a hollow tree), and playing with not one but two Basset hounds - plus a bunch of the less pedigreed local hounds who live in the park - I almost felt normal.

It's amusing the way the park signs prohibit "dogs without leash." There are so many strays living all over the park - and they're very friendly.

I was momentarily gripped by a fantasy of rounding up all the Lodi Gardens strays, getting them spayed/neutered/vaccinated by the volunteers of Vets Beyond Borders, giving them all names, registration numbers and collars (yes, it is crazy...I know) and starting a program called Dogs of Lodi Gardens.

Then I came to my senses, remembering what happened to the Dharamsala branch of Vets Beyond Borders. (Someday I will tell this story. Sorry, not now. The good part is that they are still operating successfully in a couple of Indian cities, but I am afraid to even talk about that for fear the successful programs will get shut down too. The short story was: it was too successful. They were making the Indian veterinarians look bad.)

Anyway - Lodi Gardens is home to some sweet stray dogs. The ice cream vendors have befriended them.
Maybe there's already a dog care program for the Lodi Gardens neighborhood - I know there is one for Khan Market area.
Living lawn mowers
These beautiful bullocks (in America we call them "Brahma bulls") pull the old-fashioned grass cutter at the Taj Mahal, then eat the results.

I wish I had been able to get the whole Taj without including the ugly metal fence in foreground.
In a comment that would no doubt irritate proud "progressive" Indians, my Canadian friend said, upon seeing this scene: "now THAT, to me, is India."

Meaning: men and cows doing a job that most of the rest of the world does by machine, slowly, in a green, clean, sustainable fashion, in front of an ancient monument of genius. In America, we now consider this progress.

It's so alarming to hear agricultural specialists and progress wonks in the press crow about how many tractors there are now in the Punjab and how someday soon, "EVERY farm in India will have a tractor" (instead of bullocks).
No to Nano
I mean, India has always made such a big deal about doing everything on their own terms and in their own way...why are they racing to match the standards of the developed world in all the least desirable categories?

Is anyone even a nano-teenth as excited about, say, a new literacy plan or the reputed $100 laptop computer as they are about this damned Tata Nano budget car that has hogged the news all week long?

Suddenly there were no more problems in Pakistan (except the cross-town catfight between cousins Bilawal and Fatima) - only this rather ugly car.

Cheap cars are cheap for a reason, no one seems to have figured that out here yet. Just ask owners of the Ford Pinto. Any money you save on the front end you will end up spending on repairs, guaranteed. But don't listen to me...Americans know nothing about cars. ;-) or pollution. Or traffic, or gridlock, or about going into debt for life just to pay for your car habit.

A car - when you live in a place with ample public transportation - is an extravagant hole you will throw money into for the next 5 years. (A cheap car won't last longer than that.) At the end of that 5 years, you will have nothing for your investment. People have been driving (literally) round and round in this trap in America for decades and again, it is alarming to see other countries fall down the same rabbithole.
Thinking Americans (yes, admittedly we are a minority, ha ha) are going in the opposite direction. Everyone wants to move to a city or country with public transport so they can escape the car trap, with all its maintenance and monthly payments. It's a very costly illusion of freedom.
Anyway, rant over (for now). It just seems that if any country had the potential to figure out a truly progressive sustainable solution to such a problem (transportation) - a solution that suits their unique population and logistical needs - it would be India. Just copying the mistakes of the west in a cheaper form is nothing to applaud.

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