Mo H Saidi

A Voyage to India 2015

Mo H Saidi

The fact that visiting India is an experience and not a vacation indicates that beneath the mountains of rubbish that piles up in every city, town, and village, lies an indescribable way of life measurable only by a different standards than we are accustomed to. What we encounter in India from the onset was masses of people living in the symbiotic co-existence with nature and human by-products..  Half-naked men cooking and selling chicken biryani on the sidewalks share the space with wondering holy cows and stray dogs. Seeing public urinals in the intersections are also commonplace not only in Kolkata but in other big cities, and actually everywhere else. However, after a few days of contemplation, we immerse in the crowd ignoring the pollution, noise, and the waves of bathers of the polluted Ganges River. Thereafter nothing that could be shocking in the West---like bathing in the public in the sidewalks---seems extraordinary.

It was seven in the morning when we arrive in the new Kolkata International Airport. After several hours of waiting, the tour agent found us in Banyan Café guarding the luggage. It was a long flight from New York that after two stops in Abu Dhabi and New Delhi airports brought us to Kolkata. A comfortable van drove us through the slow morning traffic that was moving in the English style direction. The air was thick with smoke spewing from the old but colorful heavily dented buses, wall-scratched taxis, small overloaded trucks, motorcycles, and tuk-tuks, lest bicycles and man driven rickshaws. The roads are shared between all of these vehicles as well as the mass of pedestrians who crisscross the heavy traffic in every directions. Honking horns and making noise is not only permitted, it’s highly encouraged (after all in Hinduism, the world was created with a big bang.) The uneven sidewalks are mostly occupied by vendors forcing the pedestrians to mix with the street traffic. The first shocking discovery visiting India is the largest democracy in the world with the population of 1.2 billion people’s inability to deal with its rubbish. Yet, here in India I'm floating in Paradise. There is a sense of contentment, security and freedom that I detect in the faces of people.

After recovering from the jet-lag, I begin to visit historical places and read about Indian religious and political history, about Indian-English writers and the origin of yoga. I’m now used to the largest landfill on earth, and surprised by the measure of placidity amongst Indian population. Like other adventure-seeking tourists, I intermingle with the flow of people and seek the clue to the meaning of life Indian style. I ignore the garbage-filled roads, holy cows, and playful monkeys as a few of my fellow travelers cursing the vitriolic stench and smog and contemplate these questions:  How could the 1.2 billion people with 22 languages, 7 major religions (with many more minor ones,) and huge young population live together democratically, almost peacefully? According to the United Nations reports, it’s noteworthy that the rate of Homicide---The annual rate in 2012 was 2.8 per 100,000 people compared to 4.5 for the United States---as well as other major crimes in India has declined by as much as 70% during the last 20 years while the population grew by the average rate of 1.7% annually.

Around the World

A Trip to Antarctica

the Frozen Desert

March 2012

If angels had blubber instead of flutter; if they sang Holy Cow instead of Hosanna, Antarctica would be paradise.

from Robert Flynn: Antactica-Standing on the Bottom of the World

Antarctica, on average, is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, and has the highest average elevation of all the continents. Antarctica is considered a desert, with annual precipitation of only 200 mm (8 inches) along the coast and far less inland.The temperature in Antarctica has reached −89 °C (−129 °F). There are no permanent human residents, but anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 people reside throughout the year at the research stations scattered across the continent. Only cold-adapted organisms survive, including many types of algae, bacteria, fungi, plants, protista, and certain animals, such as mites, nematodes, penguins, seals and tardigrades. Vegetation where it occurs is tundra.

Pictures from SoHo Walls and Times Square, NYC, NY