During my 15-hour flight home from the US, I went to the back of the plane to stretch my legs and walked into a fascinating conversation with two Indian men who live in the US, one in Princeton and the other in Fort Myers, Florida. We first chatted about everything-and-nothing and then the conversation turned to our destination: India. Both men were born there. One left for college in the States and stayed to work, like so many NRI’s, or non-resident-Indians who left in the 70’s and 80’s to escape the economic malaise in the country. The other left because he says he couldn’t practice his Christian faith. Both men still clearly loved their country, but they couldn’t tolerate it. Here are snippets of our conversation:
The corruption is systemic. It saddens me.
I left India when the orphanages I opened were shut because the government believed that I was converting the children… (to Christianity)
You can’t set up an honest business or oversee an honest project unless an outside and independent assessor manages it.
The press is corrupted. It’s a tool of the government and big business.
The Indian constitution is just a piece of paper. It’s not enforced. It’s too long. (The Indian constitution is the longest in the world with 395 articles, 12 schedules and 76 amendments.)
India was once clean – now it is dirty with corruption. Businesses can’t survive without joining the corruption.
The court system is powerless. The laws aren’t enforced.
NO! India isn’t tolerant…
I love my country but it’s not what it was forty years ago.
Government schools are awful. The teachers discriminate against the poor or underclass.
There is no housing for the poor.
Did you know that there are laws in some Indian states that make it illegal to convert Hindu Indians to another religion?
(This is a true. The laws are enacted to stop Dalits, formerly called untouchables, the lowest class on the Hindu caste hierarchy, from converting to Christianity. Many of India’s muslims are long-ago converted Hindus. Dalits are not actually recognized by the Hindu religion and many places restrict Dalits from participating in Hindu ceremonies or from entering Hindu temples. Some Dalits argue that they are not actually Hindus because the religion refuses to recognize them. The situation gets more complicated when Dalits convert, because they are entitled to government reservations. Similar to Affirmative Action for minorities in the US, India’s reservation system guarantees job and education placements for the underclass. If a Dalit converts to Christianity, they are no longer eligible for this entitlement, even though the society they live in still discriminates against them for being born Dalit.)
The poor will always be poor.
Jim is back from promoting the book and all is slowly getting back to normal in the Yardley household. The grandmothers did a great job watching our children. George has even commented that he has more fun with them than he does with me. Barbara, you will be pleased to know that George and I make a great team against Lala playing “Words with Friends.” Thank you for introducing him to the game. He’s obsessed with winning and he learns to spell along the way.
Lala sang a duet and solo the other night – Pink’s “Perfect”. It’s too long to send via email and she won’t let me post the video here, but I’m working on her. I think she will give-in once the fuss is over. She’s still learning how to receive praise. I was so proud of her! After the concert, my phone was buzzing with messages from friends who heard her sing and were bowled-over by the power and perfection of her voice.
And finally, the book. It’s really over. I think Jim is hung over from the emotion of it all. Thank you to our friends and family who supported us along the way and through the tour. It was a joy to share the celebration with you.
Two photos taken in Old Delhi by my mother:
These are gas canisters. Most neighborhoods don’t have gas lines. Our first two years in Delhi, our stove was hooked up to one of these, just like a gas grill. The gas always knew to run out while I was baking a cake.