This is a photo I shot back in November when I ran the Delhi Half Marathon. It’s a perfect intro into a topic that I’ve wanted to touch on: Power. There are a lot of Indians in the world’s largest democracy who wield it and there are also a lot of constituents willing to recognize and indulge that power. I’ve already written about the obscene public displays of Mayawati’s reign. Like the hierarchical social strata of caste, power appears to be stratified as well: a sign for VVVIP parking would suggest that there also exists VVIP’s and merely VIP’s.
I’m reading an interesting book titled Being Indian that discusses pan-Indian characteristics and how they play out in modern India. Power and hierarchy – you can’t escape them here. Stand on a street corner and wait a minute or two – it’s likely that a ubiquitous parade of police-escorted government cars will pass by probably ferrying a low-level government peon. Indians, the author argues, believe that the powerful are entitled to display their wealth and that if they don’t, they will never be able to wield it over a constituency who wants to feel and see this power. Open the newspaper and read daily about honor killings or caste politics – this is a country whose constitution guarantees equality but whose culture perpetuates inequality. Just this week the government agreed to include a question identifying caste in the national census. This was a huge debate in parliament and it had more to do with parliamentary politics and quid pro quo than anything else. However, what sort of message do you send to your voters when you tell them that everyone is equal yet you still ask, “Who is your daddy?”?
The book has fascinating discussions about amorality and the Indian ability to justify any means to achieve an ethical end in a morally flexible world; and, the idea of democracy as a means for the historically disenfranchised lower castes to achieve power, yet how this power only reinforces new levels of domination and hierarchy.
Here’s another photo for you to enjoy. This is a sign in the Delhi airport. If you are any of these people you don’t have to pass through security!
And another… This is a government official’s car. How do you see to drive with all those VERY LARGE stickers on the windshield identifying access to otherwise inaccessible compounds?
I shouldn’t have written in my last post that I had not yet been bothered by monkeys. Fate would have it that today’s Mother’s Day run, of all runs, was doomed. There I was happily jogging along, lost in music and the promise of the day when I rounded a corner to a terrible, feral smell – and before I could react, four monkeys came at me. I learned three things:
1. monkeys are fast
2. monkeys make a lot of noise
3. monkeys are strong
I always carry a stick and when one lunged at me, I used my stick to lunge back. He grabbed it, bit it, snarled… when another came at my calf. He brushed it with his paw, but didn’t hurt me. I lost the stick to the monkeys and ran across the street to two men waiting at a bus stop. The monkeys didn’t pursue me – but I was scared enough to end my run and hop in a tuk tuk to a local park, where I finished what I set out to do this morning: run 10K.
And the week in photos. A rare shot of George reading a poem:
My last class with fellow Bollywood dancers:
A mother’s triumph: three boys on a bed crafting!
He exists!! My Hubba in the school library:
This is what a mother does for her kids: makes homemade marshmallows… but it takes so long to blend that I moved the bowl to a place where I could sit and read. Mutli-tasking at its best:
And what do I get for those marshmallows? A bonk on the head with a very hard soccer ball!