Good Night Gracie

October 25, 2014 at 6:16 pm

Kathleen and I have passed our one year anniversary in India and it is an appropriate time to capture and record  the surprises that we have encountered in India which was aptly described by a past US diplomat, Kenneth Galbraith, as the Land of Functional Chaos. Much of the following is not particularly flattering to India; however, let it be known that we are enjoying our time here and that  the people are so warm and kind.  It is said that India is a land of contrasts and contradictions.  Whatever I say below can certainly be qualified and the longer I stay here, the more  I realize  that I have barely scratched the surface of a highly textured culture. I particularly hesitate to discuss  Indian spirituality.  Begging ahead of time for forgiveness, I will venture forth and apologize now  for missing the mark.   Here is a top ten list in no particular order.  Let’s start off with an easy one.


  • Peacocks on Golf Courses.

I was surprised by the number and variety of animals all over this city of 10 million plus inhabitants.    For instance,  I frequently encounter peacocks in the early morning at the Boulder Hills golf course.  They also live in the KBR  park close to our apartment and sometimes find their way into our Banjara Hills neighborhood.  I have also seen monkeys in my backyard a couple of times recently.   Herds of goats can be found sporadically along busy thoroughfares.  They are more present and available for purchase  at the times of festivals when Hindus or Moslems sacrifice them.  Stray dogs in packs of 4 or 5 are ubiquitous.  They are scavengers and viewed as such by Hindus.  They live off the garbage overflowing from dumpsters. Wendy Doniger has stated that in Hinduism, “You are what you eat.”  So living off  garbage would make dogs impure and viewed in a similar manner as pigs are in the Middle East.  The dogs are docile and afraid of people  for good reason.     From time to time, you see people with sticks threatening the dogs and I have read about people treating them cruelly.  On the other hand, a rare individual will leave food out for the strays.  You also  see a few dogs kept as pets which makes Kathleen wonder if they yearn to run with the strays.  Of course, there are cows, but not as many as you find in the smaller cities.  Some are kept as milkers.  Despite the fact that they also eat out of the dumpsters, they are viewed as sacred.  There are also huge oxen  traveling back and forth to their watering holes.  They lumber  up and down the streets that have recently filled with motorcycles and cars.   We also see camels periodically.  They are used to provide rides for amusement.  Just today, I saw a mongoose in our courtyard.  They survive on the unseen snakes.  I also spotted two pairs of parrots flying as well as  an eagle during my morning meditation time.

  • What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate.

The Indians have a very different communication style.  While Americans are more direct and even blunt, it is often difficult for me to understand what I am being told. Of course, anyone who has ever been to India will smile in agreement that India is the land of the bobble heads.  The bobble is not a nod  “Yes” or a shake of the head to the  left and right signifying “ No”.   The bobble also has a left to right motion that may even involve the shoulders, but your face does not turn at all.  If you ask Indians what it means, you will always evoke laughter.  It may mean anything from “ I hear you,” “I am thinking about it,” “I do not know what the hell you are saying, but that is OK,” “Maybe,” to “ I get it and agree.”  It aligns with the Indian proclivity to avoid saying “No” and disappointing us.  It matters not what question is posed.  They do not want to displease and are anxious to be thought of highly.  A common and simple example of this behavior occurs whenever we  visit another city.

As we recently celebrated our 39th anniversary in Chennai, we wanted to go see a couple of different Churches that our travel agent recommended.   At the hotel, I arranged a driver and confirmed both with the concierge and the driver that they knew the location of the  churches.  All that effort was for naught as we ended up at a totally different spot.  It was a shrine to Mary that we did not know existed in Chennai.  It commemorated an appearance of Mary to a young lad who was carrying milk from his farm to the local ruler.  Our reiki master, Kathleen, remarked that she could feel divine energy and felt much at home “among our people.”   We noted the name of the shrine, but we later could not find it in any tourist materials or on Google.  Finally, when I returned to Hyderabad, Fr. Pakieraj SJ explained to me that  it sounded like a shrine to a place of pilgrimage outside Chennai.

Many healings and miracles are known to occur there as in  Lourdes.  However, it has never been sanctioned by the Church despite festivals honoring Mary that draw almost 1 million pilgrims including  Hindus and Muslims.   One might argue that Rome has not deigned to investigate a remote location in the South of India popular with the poor and uneducated.  Father also told me that one of his fellow Jesuits asked pilgrims why they came to the site.  The Hindus spoke of the fact that Mary is a mother and that she suffered much.  So they connect with her in a way that they do not connect with the legends of their Hindu goddesses.  The Koran, in turn,  speaks of Mary and honors her as well.    But I digress, it is tempting to write about how Indian culture absorbs, transforms and makes its own whatever it encounters from other cultures.  I later did read story by  an Australian journalist who  described  this pilgrimage along with a variety of other spiritual quests in her book (Holy Cow!) which describes an  Indian spiritual buffet.

Returning to the notion of the failure to communicate, the day after our inadvertent visit to the shrine, we wanted to go to the Church of San Thome built over the former tomb of St Thomas the Apostle in Chennai for Sunday Mass.  Instead our driver took us to a church at the foot of the Mount of St Thomas where he was martyred in 52 AD.  Despite the fact that the Church was named after our son, Patrick and compelled by the aggressive beggars,  we told him to call the hotel and get directions to the Church of San Thome quickly.  We managed to get to there by the homily.

Another example of the Indian communication style is their use of flattery.  They are always quick to express their appreciation or identify another’s positive attributes.  It definitely works to build rapport and always puts a smile on my face.  Could it be that I am not as awesome as the wife of one of our employees told me at a recent event?  Some Indians are a bit cynical about its use and are forthright about how effective it is to get whatever the flatterer hopes to get from the unsuspecting foreigner.

In the US, we frequently provide constructive criticism to one another.  In India, as cultures converge, perhaps that will be accommodated but in the meantime it is not well received.  An Indian will go to great lengths to explain their view and why such criticism is not acceptable.  There will not be any meeting of the minds.  In fact, one comes away with the sense that the Indian feels that they know better.   We just do not get it.   Having witnessed this proclivity multiple times, I was not surprised by the Indian comments in response to an article on India in a recent online version of NYT.  The article described the nationalistic sentiment bubbling in India and suggested that it is a response to modernity that has occurred historically in other countries  such as in the Japan of the 30s or even today.   There were over a 100 comments posted that attacked the Indian author of the column.  No one was willing to acknowledge any element of truth.

Finally, I would like to list just one more common failure of communication.  If you want something done, it may mean asking 3 times.  One of our expat colleagues mentioned how they could not get items repaired in their apartment until they refused to pay the rent.  We have been told repeatedly that something will be fixed or delivered and then it will be forgotten until our reminders.  It is a gross understatement to say that there is no sense of urgency.

  • My Fair Lady

There was no way that we could anticipate what it would be like to leave behind all that we knew, who we knew, our regular patterns of activity, and the routines of our daily life.  Suddenly, we had all kinds of unstructured time together. What a tremendous gift.  Our love grows richer as we discover greater depths of intimacy and sharing.    I was fearful that Kathleen would not like it here.  From Day One, she embraced the chaos and the adventure.  Even though I had been to India 3 times before, I had never walked on the chaotic streets.  On the first day here, Kathleen got me out of the hotel and we walked to check out some restaurants down a road with no sidewalks  on a crazy busy street.  Through the first few days, she kept repeating: “ Judy Dench, Judy Dench, Judy Dench”.   (She was the actress in The Exotic Marigold Hotel who thrived in India.)  With my newfound free time, I went with Kathleen to Bikram Yoga for the first time and was delighted by how much she wanted me to like it.  I am still going a year later.

We see India through the same eyes.  I take pictures that excite her and she posts them on   Still a year later, when we see something curious, odd, or unusual, we will delight in it together.  We laugh and smile more.   We enjoy traveling together.  Sharing the delight of staying in unbelievable hotels where we are treated like royalty.  “Who knew that I would enjoy sightseeing so much!” said Kathleen.  In Rajasthan, we saw painted horses and elephants flanking  the sides of all entryways.  When we arrived home, I suggested that we have them painted on the hallway walls entering our living room.  “What a good idea!” Kathleen agreed.  There was the time in Katmandu when she wanted to buy a Tibetan singing bowl.  I waited outside the shop talking with our guide while she shopped.  She came out and asked me to go into buy the bowl that she picked out.  The proprietor demonstrated how the bowl worked for me and asked for 12,000 rupees (US 200).  I negotiated a selling price of 8500 or 9000 rupees ( US 160).   Later that night, I told her that I could have negotiated a little more.  She asked what I paid.  Her jaw hit the table.  She said: “He offered it to me for 8000 rupees and agree to sell it to me for 6000 ( US100)!”

What a blessed gift this whole experience has been.

I am now working 1 normal job as opposed to the 3 or 4 jobs at the same time  that I have had at Deloitte the past 20 years.  I only manage wonderful people now.  Because we work a later shift to maximize overlap with the US, I do not have to go into the office until 11 A.M. which gives me 5 hours in the morning to do yoga, exercise, pray, and read.  What a perfect way to start the day.

We love our apartment which has floor to ceiling windows and is filled with sunshine.  There are rarely clouds here.  We did not buy much furniture and it is spacious enough for Kathleen to offer free yoga sessions to mostly expat women.  2-6 women attend every MWF.  We have a balcony that overlooks a beautifully manicured courtyard.

It is so refreshing to be away from the political noise and sports mania in the US.  No more watching news shows that are spin sessions filled with negativity.  Many expats stay up on Sunday nights to watch NFL football.  No thank you.   I limit my sports to watching ND football, but record it and watch it after church on Sundays.  We do not watch any TV other than a little Masterpiece Theatre from time to time.  I think that we have watched 3 movies the past year.

We have so much for which to be grateful.  This experience is a transparent moment of God blessing our life together.

  • The Oppression of Women.

I am not sure where to start with the life of women in India.  It  varies with your caste or creed.  In a general way,  it is surprising to see how few women are out and about.  Kathleen went to a coffee shop one morning and was the only woman among 30 men there.  One of our Hindu employees explained to me that to leave the house she would have to ask a variety of males for permission to leave.  She explained that  it is not worth the bother.  I wonder if that is why she missed our party to mark the end of busy season after the last tax due date of the year?

While the Indian women wear long dresses or leggings, many of the Muslims wear burkahs in public.  It does help them avoid the gaping men of India.  The men gawk at women here.  They do not smile or avert their eyes.  Kathleen does not notice so much, but when we walk single file in the streets due to the lack of sidewalks, I can see it. Kathleen likes to tell the story of our Australian friend Josey who  dresses ostentatiously and sometimes skimpily.  She stops traffic.  All the men stare into her vehicle and women look at her disapprovingly in the grocery store.

It is also dangerous to be a woman in India.  I do not know how to explain the violence committed against women. I do not understand rape and why it occurs.  Seems to be a violent act of  hate and subjugation.  Seems to reflect a deep dysfunction in the culture of India.   While we offer a security person to accompany women home in a cab  if they work late,  some of the women refuse to work late since they do not feel comfortable riding home with two strange men.

Similarly, baby girls and female fetuses are also at risk since they are viewed as an economic burden.  They will require the payment of a dowry and will go to live with the family of her husband.  In the US, there are 1050 girls born for every 1000 males. In contrast, many states in India have 800 to 900 girls for 1000 boys. Because of the frequent abortions of unwanted baby girls, it is now illegal to determine the sex of an unborn child.   In the  book In Spite of the Gods, the story is told of a woman who gave birth to a female.  Her mother in-law visited her at the hospital and told her that she had given birth to a stone. “It was as if I had committed a crime.”  She ended up divorcing her husband which is also not acceptable.

On a different note, Bollywood dancing is quite racy.  The male and female anatomies bump and grind.  Elvis could have sat at the feet of these dancers to learn about pelvic thrusts.  Interestingly, however, the Bollywood stories always end up reaffirming a more conservative status quo.  Flirtations and titillations never cross the line.  Kissing on the movie screen does not happen.

With respect to the workplace, we see women working on construction sites all the time.  These are women from the backward classes which do not rise to the level of being called a caste.   They are typically migrants from Indian villages, dressed in colorful flowing dresses while carrying bowls of dirt, cement, and other construction materials on their heads.  Their husbands work on the construction site along with their toddlers and kids.  There is no one left in their tarpaulin or corrugated steel shanty to take care of the little ones.  The globalization that multinational companies bring to India does provide extraordinary opportunities for the small town villagers who manage to get an education.  The women in the workplace have the same issues as in the US.  If they are from an upper caste, they will typically have a great support network at home to help with their children.  However, a woman could also be expected to do double duty.  When you marry, the woman moves in with her husband’s family and is expected to take care of her husband’s family.

  • Can Cupid Get an Indian Visa?

Arranged marriages are the norm here.  People are expected to marry within their caste and creed.   The use of the word  “creed” is a misnomer for Hinduism.  Each region or state has different flavors of belief.  There is no orthodoxy.  As one of our managers explained to me, he is part of the Gujurati Brahmins.  (Gujurat is the state of the new prime minister). While Hyderabad is many hours from Gujurat, his life is still governed by the elders of his caste.  His arranged marriage with a woman of Gujuarti Brahmin descent has been a disaster.  However, the elders will not allow him to divorce unless he pays a princely sum to his wife that he cannot afford.  He and his parents are supposed to continue to live with this “Tigress” indefinitely while she makes their lives miserable.  He tells me that more than half of the arranged marriages end up being a burden as they drag each other through life.  Yet some Indians cite the low divorce rate as support for the notion that arranged marriages are happier than love marriages.  The Indians do view us and our divorce rates as despicable.  I was recently waiting for my car after a Deloitte event.  I was making conversation with one of our new seniors about how she was going to celebrate the Indian festival of Diwali with her husband’s family. She asked if I was married.  She was surprised to learn that I have been married 39 years.  She said that she thought all the Americans  married and divorced frequently.

  • The Caste System is Alive and Well.

On the surface, the new arrival does not suspect how all- encompassing the presence of castes are.  It determines the lives of most.  The scriptures of Hinduism say that the castes arose from different body parts of the god Brahma.  This religious underpinning of the caste system results in an entitlement mentality for the upper castes and an acceptance of one’s lot in life for the lower castes.  The upper castes treat the rest of the Indians with disdain.  They look with disapproval on the way Westerners treat their drivers and servants as equals.  We should not let them into our homes.  We should never share a meal or enjoy entertainment together. As a result,  Indians love to work for Westerners.  We are not as rude and derogatory.

The constitution does enshrine that all Indians are equal and it is illegal to discriminate based on caste.   In fact, the author of the constitution, Ambedekar, was an “Untouchable”  or Dalit.   I suspect that it was the influence of Jesus that caused Gandhi to refer to Dalits as Harijan or “ God’s children” since this  sentiment is difficult to locate otherwise in India.   In fact, Dalits do not necessarily consider themselves Hindus, yet remained defined by Hinduism.   Dalits do all the cleaning and dirty jobs.  You can see them sweeping the streets or scavenging through garbage for recyclables daily.  If the shadow of a Dalit falls upon a Brahmin, the Brahmin is supposed to go home and cleanse themselves.

Ambedekar was an atheist and chose to become a Buddhist because of  Buddha’s atheism but also because there are no castes in Buddhism.  A half million of Dalits converted with him.    Unfortunately, Ambedekar was not drawn to Christianity since the caste structure persisted with  those who were converted. For example, there are separate churches and cemeteries for Dalits in the former Portuguese colony of Goa.  Apparently, in order to be part of the Church hierarchy, it is necessary to come from an upper caste.  In the southernmost state of Tamil Nadu where there is a strong Catholic presence, only 3 percent of the priests are of Dalit origin. ( Source:  In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India)

As you would expect, politic are also  dominated by “vote banks”.  Castes have their own parties and  political parties will promise “sops” or various government programs for particular castes.   The founding fathers who encouraged equality all belonged to the Congress Party.  Their policies of course attracted the lower castes and the Congress party became guilty of exploiting the caste system for votes.  After more than 60 years, their rival party, BJP, has united the Hindu majority by propagating a nationalistic Hindu agenda as well as promising greater economic growth.

While there is presently not a lot of fluidity among the castes or upward mobility, the convergence of our cultures and globalization may create some.   Love marriages are breaking down some of the barriers. A former investment banker who married outside his caste and state is now India’s most popular author.  Chetan Beghat writes light novels that address the issues many face as the “New India”  emerges.

However the compelling myths of Dharma and Karma still prevail in much thought.  See the recent comment by the CEO of Microsoft ( who was educated in Hyderabad) in response to a question about the gender gap for compensation in the workplace.  He was specifically asked what advice he would give to a women about how to ask for a pay hike.  He responded that the superpower of karma will enable women to get paid what they should.  They should just do a good job and karma will take care of them.  His response illustrates the view that one must simply accept the place into which one is born.  Do one’s duty without expecting to be rewarded  and the karmic wheel will work for your benefit in this life and the next.  That is the only way one can explain how the egregious income inequality of India is accepted by all.   It also helps explain why my Indian colleagues are bemused by Westerners’ shock about how people live at a subsistence level.

  • Does Anyone Care About Mother Earth?

Firecrackers are exploding all around us.  The Hindus are celebrating Diwali.  Given that there is no orthodoxy in Hinduism,  the festival’s meaning differs by where you live in India. In general, it is a celebration of the ultimate  triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. It is an affirmation of life.  In our state, many light lamps to invite the goddess Lakshmi into their homes so that she may bless them with material wealth.  Businesses stay open a couple of extra hours without doing business.  They are waiting for Lakshmi.  After prayers to Lakshmi, “crackers are burned” to celebrate.  Every family lights their own and the displays rival the 4th of July in the US.  However, it is not organized or regulated.  So in the evening, you will see firework displays in all directions.   Individuals are lighting fireworks that  go well above rooftops and burst into a riot of colors. The fireworks start at dark around 7pm and continue past midnight.  Kathleen and I watched from the balcony of our apartment which has a fabulous view since it sits atop one of the hills of Hyderabad.   As I went to bed last night, I realized that I would never again witness such a colorful and noisy display of fireworks  blanketing the horizon.  I paused to give thanks to God for the joy and happiness that I was witnessing which also included watching a father and 5 year old son excitedly light  some “crackers” on the street below us.  Even the Christians and Muslims are lighting crackers tonight.

Even so, many Bollywood stars are trying to stoke some environmental consciousness by declaring that they will not light any crackers because of their polluting effect.  When Mr Shah, our driver, shared this bit of news, I said that the pollution of the crackers is minimal compared to what I see happening every day.  He was surprised to hear that the constant burning of garbage would be a problem.  I then also  listed the diesel fumes of the rickshaws and cars and the other toxins emanating  from the haze of white smoke coming out of buses, motorcycles, and trucks.  Add to that  the burning of cow dung for heating fuel and cooking  as well as other cooking oils.  Not to mention that the new prime minister appointed a minister for the environment who proudly declared that the unmitigated use of coal for generating electricity would continue until poverty is eliminated in India.  Perhaps it is too harsh to say that people just do not care about the environment.  Perhaps there is a need to raise their consciousness.  They do not have the benefit of the mythic Christian creation stories which highlight that we are created from the earth, are one with the earth, and intended to be stewards of the Garden.

  • There Are No Prophets in India.

We are in the season of Hindu Festivals.  They have been going non-stop since the beginning of September.  First plastic idols of Ganesh were submerged in the lakes only to followed by plastic images of Durga a few weeks later.  Ganesh is the elephant boy co- created by Shiva and his wife.  Durga is one of the primary female goddesses.  Calls by environmentalists to use clay images rather than plastic ones go unheeded.

“Enough already!” You might be saying.  “Stop the ax-grinding.”  OK.  No question that the festivals are very celebratory times. Much joy and happiness.  The present celebration of Lakshmi is very much like Christmas with generous giving of gifts and sweets.  Yet  I have to say that one of my main take-aways from my time in India will be how it brought the Hebrew scriptures or Old Testament alive for me.  From the sacrifice of goats at the temple of Kali in Kalighat to the idol worship.  When I read the Old Testament prophets, their message is pointed.    Isaiah states that God is tired of festivals and sacrifices. Micah tells us that what the Lord requires are not festivals and sacrifices but that we “act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with our God.”  Amos indicts those who live in luxury while ignoring or simply accepting the plight of  the poor, the oppressed  and downtrodden, orphans and widows.    The prophets point toward an authentic love and worship that is expressed through just and loving actions.  The poor have a claim on us.  They are not just “takers” or parasites.  The prophets provide a very discomforting message that rings true in India.

  • Finding God in a Foreign Land

Mother Teresa will say that you do not need to go to distant lands to find God, but it certainly did not hurt.  Visiting Mother Teresa’s tomb is the one of my best experiences in India.  Her life and writings are a vision of God’s love for us.  A love that is often not returned.  God’s light and truth stills shines through her.  She remains present and active in our world continuing her ministry and mission of revealing God’s special love.

Meeting Father Pakieraj S.J. is another spiritual highlight of our visit to India.  We are blessed by his spiritual direction and mentorship.    In addition to providing many  personal blessings and wise counsel as I head into retirement, he has provided an insight into the Indian Church and the variety of religious expressions found here.  I have become acutely aware of the simplicity of Jesus’ message and how it speaks to India and  contrasts with the local spirituality.  Jesus was a poor man.  His father was a humble techton or mason much like the day laborers here.  Like the Hebrew prophets, Jesus spoke on behalf of the poor and the marginalized.  He attacked the institutional church of his time. He told us to Repent and experience the Kingdom of God which is here, at our fingertips and within us.  He revealed that our God is a good God.  A loving Father.  Jesus was fully human and experienced the human condition to the point of feeling abandoned as he suffered and died.  Yet He is the Word by which our universe came into being.

It is a commonplace statement among Hindus and many from the syncretistic spirituality found here that there are many paths to God as there are many rivers that flow to the ocean that is God.  A Christian believes that Jesus is spoken Word that created those rivers and our Trinity is that ocean.  Those many paths are a reflection of God’s overflowing and abundant love that patiently and powerfully pursues us and is revealed to all who seek God with a sincere heart  no matter what we call ourselves or what our creedal statements may or may not be.

It has been fun exploring and trying to understand the complex and contradictory thinking of the eastern religions.  For example, the author of In Spite of the Gods quotes Krishna telling Arjuna:  “Thou feel pity when pity has no place.  Wise men feel pity neither for what dies nor what lives…I am indifferent to all born things.  There is none whom I hate, none whom I love.”  Buddha too says:  “Those who love nothing in this world are rich in joy and free from pain.”   The author contrasts this detachment of Krishna and Buddha to Jesus who did not refrain indifferently from  raising the dead, curing the sick and healing a variety of ailments.   Fr. Rex Pai talks about the compassion of Jesus and his followers:  “His heart is filled with compassion for the people and he invites them: ‘Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. ‘ He is truly ‘God with us’ who accompanies and strengthens us in our crosses and trials.  When we pray, our hearts are open to our brothers and sisters in need and to the pain of the world.   ‘ The joys and the hopes, the grief and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor and in any way afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anxieties of the followers of Christ’(Vatican II: The Church in the Modern World).   We make the sufferings of others our own by presenting them to the Lord…we come away with a desire to share and lighten the burdens of those around us.”  Fr Rex continues by telling the following story:  “…Meeting a boy carrying another boy a little smaller than himself, Fr. Flannagan remarked: ‘Isn’t  it a heavy burden for you?’  ‘No’, the boy replied, ‘he’s not a burden, he’s my brother.’”

While I tend to be disparaging of the Hindu idols and practices,  Fr. Pakieraj  helps me to bridge the gap.  We all need images such as Jesus on the Cross.  Images can provide comfort that God has the world  in Her hands.  Perhaps our God uses the plastic idols to connect with people and to inspire good works and service to others.

I have also learned how yoga can help quiet my mind and enhance my prayer life.  Some meditative yoga also releases and provides more energy that I possess throughout the day.  I am invigorated.  The breathing and the chanting of “Om”  associated with some yoga  also helps one live in the present and be here now.  As Mother Teresa says, “ We must never be preoccupied with the future. There is no reason to be so.  God is there.”  She also said, “ Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not  yet come.   We have only today.  Let us begin.”

  • Ebola May  Lay Waste to India

The lack of hygiene in India is stunning.  Here is a brief list of items that illustrate why.

One of the new prime minister’s important programs is to put toilets or bathrooms in the schools.  Think about that.

There is an acronym, OD, for open defecation and 60 percent of the population practices it.  90 percent in rural areas.  People think it is healthier than using toilets.

Cities do not have sewage treatment plants.

The bathrooms that exist do not have soap to cleanse  or towels to dry your hands.

When one first arrives in India, you are surprised to see men openly peeing on the side of the street.  ( I kid visitors that all of India is a golf course.  However, the Indians with whom I play golf, do not pee in the shrubs on the golf course.  They use the restrooms. How ironic.)

Another example of poor hygiene recently occurred on an airplane.  The individual next to me was reading a magazine provided by the airline.  He proceeded to sneeze into it, then closed it and put it back into the pouch on the back of the seat in front of him.

  • Bonus Round.

The amount of political corruption and its impact on infrastructure and all government programs is stunning.  When public funds are allocated for a given purpose, 70 percent of them never reach the project or the people for whom they are intended.  The politicians skim most of it.  The roads are a mess.  One frequently has to drive 20-30 mph because of their condition.  Not only do the politicians take the public money, they also receive bribes from the contractors that they hire who in turn skimp on the cost of the materials that are used.  The electrical power infrastructure is also poor.  Some  of the power is wasted on lines that go nowhere.  We have several power outages daily some of which is related to a shortage of coal.   There has been an ongoing investigation into  how coal contracts are rewarded which has caused the mines to be shut down.  It has led to this shortage and increased imports.  Interestingly, the coal companies are required to continue to pay their idle workers.