Currently: Dusty… very, very dusty.
End of part two of three came and went with Delhi. We had to say goodbye to some really incredible people – Kerry, Rachel, Emma, Glen, and Elaine! They were all such great fun to have on the trip and it was sad to see our time together come to an end. I wish everyone safe journeys onwards for those continuing their travels and safe flights home for those … well going home!
Delhi is very metropolitan (many plus points for their insanely awesome metro system). It definitely went against all my expectations. I was expecting a more Kolkata-like experience, especially when the second we got off the truck we were accosted, and I do mean accosted, by a small child beggar. She was daringly aggressive, going so far as to grab our legs, clothes, bags and refused to leave even with hotel staff chasing her away. It was both heartbreaking and maddening. It wasn’t like the other beggars we’d witnessed before. This was targeted and almost barbaric. I feel awful using words like aggressive and barbaric to describe the actions of a child, but it felt that way. To know that this child has been raised to act like this towards foreigners is distressing. I feel so helpless in these situations. What should I do? Is there even anything I could do? I know it’s a part of traveling, but I will never get used to it. On principle I never give money to beggars, because I don’t want to contribute to any sort of begging scam or culture. The begging industry in India is real and ever so complex. Just to give you some ideas of numbers, India has been quoted as having the highest level of child labour in the world, accounting for 7% of its workforce with estimates from 20 million in total up to 44 million children out of school and at least 300,000 of them as beggars (Child Labour in India – An Overview; Child Labour in India). The reality is many of the families of these children rely on the income produced by the child, whether they are working jobs or simply begging on the streets. The begging industry has been estimated to reel in Rs 1.5 billion (~$22.6 million) in Delhi alone. But, let’s not forget the Slumdog Millionaire reality either (recap: gangs maim, throw acid on, blind, threaten/torture, underfeed children to increase begging profits). I could never live with myself if I unknowingly contributed to any business that forces these conditions on children. Looking back on that girl with caked hands, mangy hair, and wild eyes, I haven’t seen that level of desperation before. Especially not in a kid. It pulled at my heartstrings and made me wonder the story behind the desperation.
Sorry for the dark tone, but it’s not something I wanted to overlook. It’s better to have a conversation (or at the very least, one-sided commentary) about it, than to simply brush it under the rug. But for now, I want to move on to all the other sights and impressions Delhi made on me. We had a wonderful day tour through Old Delhi that began with a visit to the largest mosque in India, Jama Masjid. It was kind of expensive to take photos there, so you’ll have to google some images to see what I saw! Or visit Delhi. Much better idea. We also checked out some spice markets and climbed up on top of a terrace to get a beautiful view of some old colonial style buildings.