* Editor's note: Gabe wrote this in September.
So it’s been a little over a month since we left Delhi. I’ve been trying to make sense to myself what those two months in India meant and I think I’m now more confused than ever. I think India has given me a renewed appreciation for the celebration of divinity in all things. Twelve years of Catholic school installed a gag reflex at the slightest whiff of organized religion, but seeing how it works in India has changed that. There are literally a million ways to God. God is love, life is everything and love is life. It’s beautiful even amid the filth that pervades everything. This is a tremendous gift from Mother India because it’s something I’ve been struggling with for a long time. For this, I am thankful.
Now, in keeping with the essence of India here is the contradiction: the treatment of women.
Never having traveled extensively with a woman, I really didn’t know what to expect. Even traveling through Arab countries where the majority of the time there are no women are on the street, I never feared for Amy’s safety. (The one exception was that Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, but that was more because we were Americans stupid enough to walk through a fucking Palestinian refugee camp.)
Getting to India and seeing how woman are maimed or killed because of dowry disagreements, how they face constant groping with the threat of rape if they dare to leave the house alone, how they are killed by their own family if they love someone of a lower caste, was too much. Passing groups of men on the street (because there are groups of men lounging EVERYWHERE) and seeing them leer at Amy was so disgusting. Seeing women beg on the street with half their face melted off, hearing countless stories from the women we talked to about being constantly molested on public transportation, finding out one of our roommates in Delhi almost got raped by a driver - these are real things. It seems to me the treatment of women is one of the main issues killing India. How can you so horribly oppress half of the population (although that number is shrinking due to the abortion of female fetuses) and expect to move forward? How can you ignore Gandhi, who stated that women are the future of India?
Again, this isn’t some article in the NYTimes. This is what we saw, felt and experienced. The one time I didn’t accompany Amy when we left our hostel, she was groped. I’ve never felt so much anger towards a people. Even before that happened to her, I was ready to stomp any man whose filthy little paw found its way into the wrong place. I’m not that big of a guy, but I’m definitely twice the size of almost everyone we saw on the street. This feeling always in the back of my mind, and seeing what Amy had to experience, really affected our time in India.
But then we do things like take a rickety ski lift up to this stupa in the poorest, filthiest, most oppressed state in India. We get up there and it’s serene beauty. There is a calm energy radiating from the place. We see the sun beginning to set, casting this warm light on the stupa, which is commemorating the stages of Buddha’s life. Off in the distance there is a beautiful temple, with a devotee slowly hitting a drum to focus your mind as you enter the sanctuary.
There are places like this all over India. It’s like the country has this vast ocean of spiritual energy below the surface. People have built temples and shrines where it gushes to the surface, and distributes this energy to the people.
But then you have to leave and go back down to earth. We walk past a bunch of tonga drivers that give that menacing leering look to Amy. This is what I’m talking about! India!!
I have no fucking idea what to think.