Sudder Street

I am very aware of everything here, more so than I ever have to be at home. It seems to be training my mind in a different way to constantly focus on every sense and action. I am quite aware of my hand placement, I never realized how much I touch or want to touch my face now that I cant touch my nose, my eyes, or my mouth. I am aware of the stares, although they have changed some since Ive started wearing my salwar kameez. I am keenly aware of the Indians and Bengalis staying in my hotel and it makes me think twice about staying in this hotel much longer. I realize that this country is broken because it is based on money. I heard an Indian man say, “Well, yes that may be so, but you know, this is India,” when I told him he was doing something against the law. Money speaks here. Beggars rent out babies for 25 rupees a day or keep their own children malnourished or on brown sugar (a three year old will look like he is 7 months old) so foreigners keep giving them money.

You can buy absolutely anything you want. You can buy a baby and bring it home. You can buy a gun. You can do anything you want, throw money at it and your wish will be granted. In my own hotel, there are some dodgy men, who will do anything for a foreigner if you give them a few rupees. One is a deaf and mentally ill boy who will take you to the red light district. The money he gets he uses for heroin. In fact, it is illegal to smoke in hotels, but the Pakis next to my room were smoking and the disgusting air was flowing into my room since there is about a four inch space at the top of my wall connecting to their room. When I spoke to the manager of the hotel, he seemed like he would do something about it and instead he bummed cigarettes off of them and began smoking with them. He explained that he told them to open their windows, as if that would do anything. Only when I was firm about it and said I was very sick and they will be fined 200 rupees each, did he go back again. My friend Serena, a long term volunteer, interjected that I am an asthmatic and he used that as an excuse. I would have done it myself, but I don’t really want to rap on Pakis door and let them know who the actual complainer is, although I suppose it is easily found out, since there are only 5 other choices of western women staying in this hotel. I was expecting them to smoke again, but they surprisingly refrained.

I am aware of the threats and the sim cards that were used in the Mumbai attacks were purchased not far from where I live. I notice every beggar and every twisted and disabled body here. I see naked women washing themselves, men peeing on streets, people defecating kitty corner to their street home. I notice the creativity and endurance that goes in building these shacks and living under plastic on streets. And I notice how much water I use. When I take showers, I specifically have a bucket under me that gathers the water whenever I run it. I find I only use a third of the bucket, but I think a large part of it has to do with it being cold water. If it were really hot out, I wouldn’t mind the cold, but it certainly is not.

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