Royalty and Poverty in The Golden Triangle

In New Delhi, Capital of India, we drove past impressive parliamentary buildings and the statues of many famed & decorated politicians from throughout India’s history.

We looked on with awe as we kept driving past green public areas; some parks, others mere strips of land dividing the road, but this instead illustrated generations of poverty that forced Indian families to live out in the open under the blue tarps of their humble shelter.

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In Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, we walked around the gardens surrounding one of the seven wonders of the world. A breathtaking testimony of love and power from a ruling kingdom destined to leave a mark on Earth.

We saw men pushing their wooden carts full of goods; sometimes produce or flowers, but at times heavier piles of wood or metal, through traffic in the winding roads of the city.

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In Jaipur, the Pink City, we marveled from our rooftop at the palace submerged in the lake as the sunrise rays peaked through the mountains. Inside Emer Fort, glass mirrors decorated the walls and ceilings of the rooms atop a mountain accessed by elephant.

After visiting the City Palace, we learned of a young prince adopted into the royal Maharaj family since there were women only left as direct descendants. Shortly after leaving, a young boy knocked on the windows of our van begging for a few rupees to eat his next meal.

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A land of extremes.

Within the Golden Triangle, as its famously dubbed (New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur), we played witness to illustrious wealth and power, among widespread poverty and disenfranchisement.

Luxury among the struggle of the everyday.

And I wonder, when will those at the bottom of the triangle enjoy India’s gold?

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Blink.

Blue sky.
Foaming waves.
Wet hair across my face.

Stroke with the left.
Stroke with the right.

The flap flap of a bird above.
A distant tattooed hippy swimming.
Palm leaves swaying.

Floating blue eternity.
Sand approaching.
Footprint here and footprint there.

I blink.

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India and The Economics of Fog

India and The Economics of Fog

We looked up to see each others faces with confusion – it must be a joke, right?
Our flight had been cancelled.

It was only a short ride (about 3 hours) from New Delhi to Goa, but the decision was set. The reason? “Weather.”

Low visibility brought on by the heavy fog that filled Delhi’s gray sky.

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We noticed it when we first arrived and we were taken by surprise. It not only filled the sky, but it penetrated hallways of our hotels and noticeably itched our lungs.

But, fog?

Nay. This was smog. Pollution.
A man-made environmental dilemma.

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Grave enough to be affecting health, water, living conditions, I’m sure.

Impacting flight patterns for local travel or tourism was the least of the problem, as we soon found out.

Could it have been corporate greed and capitalist malice with blatant disregard for the environment? Perhaps the massive influx of India’s urban population? An industrialized chaos of cars, motor bikes and rickshaws?

Many elements to blame unfortunately, but it is the current and coming generations who will pay the heavy price of our action and inaction.

Two Men Holding Hands

Walking down the streets of New Delhi.
Entering the Arabian Sea by the beaches of Goa.
Shopping in the markets of Jaipur.

I turn my head and my eyes do not deceive me: two men holding hands.

You see, in many cities around the world a transparent rope of masculinity and patriarchy ties us down. It strangles us into submission declaring pink feminine and blue masculine. It herds us into boxed fences of the gender binary, punishing those who dare to step out with lashes.

Unnatural. Immoral. Queer.

But, for some reason, the social constructs of gender and sexuality, the tightened grip around our wrists, allows two Indian men to hold each others hands.

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It is not a cultural marker that defines your sexuality. It is a measure of neither masculinity nor femininity.

Rather, a subtle expression of trust, a notion of friendship, a touch of humanity.

Seeing two men holding hands makes me long for our liberation from the patriarchy and gender binary.

Untie our masculinity. Untie our femininity. Free us from ourselves.

Let us be human.

Overlooking Jaipur

Overlooking Jaipur

By: Alexa Chanelle

We spent two days nestled between the mountains in the pink city of Jaipur. A lively place filled with open markets, monuments and people who are always heading somewhere.

Our modern hotel had more activity than the others we stayed at prior. There were numerous families checking in and out with children that ran around the lobby carelessly. I, like the children, was excited to be there and wanted to run around the lobby with them. As a 6 foot tall adult I figured that wouldn’t be appropriate, so I showed my excitement through snapchats that failed to post.

My room, which was on the fourth floor, had a magnificent view. On my left I could see the summer palace that peeked out of the middle of the lake in which it was built, with a mountainous background. In front of the palace I saw artisans lining the boardwalk with their goods to sell. In the distance there was a fort on top of a mountain. So high the morning fog almost made it disappear. Parakeets flew in pairs, monkeys roamed about and dogs barked below me. To my right apartment buildings, possibly made of sandstone, were decoratively scattered about the mountainside.

I thought about how blessed I was to witness such beauty. I took many pictures of this view even though I knew my iPhone 5c wouldn’t do it justice. I’m not quite sure anything but the human eye could accurately capture what I saw and the feeling it gave me.

During our stay we visited Amer Fort. It was surrounded by a wall and as we entered its gates ancient architecture intermingled with 21st century patrons. We rode elephants to the top and upon arrival an extravagant palace was revealed to us.

Rooms made entirely of marble so intricately designed I couldn’t imagine how its creators envisioned such beauty within a marble slab. Colorful paintings, mirrored rooms and of course breathtaking views of the city.

Later we took a driving tour around Jaipur. We saw glorious government buildings, sports arenas and statues. Although I tried to pay attention to our guide as he recited the city’s history, it was diverted by the child beggars who tapped on our windows at every stop light. Little hands covered in dust and dirt didn’t cease their banging even when we tried to ignore it. Their voices asking for anything we can give. We all had the urge to reach into our pockets but each time our guide shooed them away. As I observed those around me anger filled my heart as people in cars taunted the kids with candy. Some eventually threw it on the ground for them to fetch… others closed their windows and gave nothing at all.

No matter how hard I tried I could not erase this experience from my mind. How can so few live so lavishly while their people live in dirt? This question haunts me for I am unable to answer it.

Each night we all gathered on the roof of our hotel for reflective conversation and a few drinks of course. Watching Jaipur sleep as its street lights twinkled like the stars above. Our dialogue drifted between deconstructing ideologies and humor. All the while reminiscing about the luxurious palaces we had the opportunity to see– as well as the profound poverty that was right outside of its gates.

As I gazed off into the distance, overlooking Jaipur, I thought how blessed I was to be here. As I continued to gaze I couldn’t help but think about those overlooked.

 

Agra Awakens

Agra awakens for another day, and sleepy eyes begin to emerge from shelters. I’m catching glimpses from inside some of the windowless houses. Sleep continues there, even as the streets begin to stir – women and children coddled by bright floral spreads and silk linens, atop wooden bench-beds.

In the road, dogs and cows weave about the traffic. Some keep warm with the humans by the scattered fires – lit on the side of the road for warmth as the gathering, standing, and waiting begins. The waiting for rides, from tut-tuts, busses, or carts. Piling in for transport to job sites.

A moderate layer of smog covers all. It has a peculiar way of making the rising sun glow with greater strength – a bright orange sphere amongst all the morning grey. Agra awakens – begins preparing for the day. I am just a wide-eyed observer, hidden within our van, eager to see and learn more.

I Can’t Breathe

By: Alexa Chanelle

I literally can’t breathe in New Delhi.

In years past I read books that described the Indian sky. The picture painted in my mind was that of a lazy sun hanging in a hazy sky. How beautiful it must be, I thought. However, when I stepped outside the fantasy of lazy sun rays and hazy skies turned into a huge coughing fit that left me searching for my Ricola cough drops in my overstuffed backpack.

I never appreciated the New York City air until that moment. Being from Florida, I never thought I’d say that.

The smell of the air was that of burnt rubber which must be caused by the amount of vehicles on the road. Tut-Tuts, motorbikes, busses and vans weaved their way throughout traffic contributing to the smogtastic city. In a place where 20 million people live it’s quite understandable why there are so many vehicles on the road at once. Cigarette smokers on my left and right made me wonder how people could have the urge to smoke when breathing felt like smoking. It was an aura that I couldn’t escape and made being outside miserable. I was relieved to get inside of the hotel until I found the smog and it’s smell greeting me at the door. It lingered in the hallways and by the end of the night found its way to my lungs. Causing another coughing fit.

This morning we left New Delhi for the city of Agra. I thought maybe the smog will disappear, but it didn’t. It was just as intense as the day before. However, I was glad to get on the road to Agra and escape it’s suffocating grip. Yet, as we drove, I began to see the smog from a different perspective. The experience became more visual and less physical.

The haze became apart of the landscape. It made anything that was 20 feet away disappear into its mystery. The buildings that stretched up into the sky looked like stairways to heaven as they faded into the dense fog. Clusters of trees looked like low hanging clouds. The sky no longer blue but changed from a deep orange sunrise to a pale yellow morning sky. I’ve never seen anything like it before. It’s almost as if God used the rise filter and tilt shift tool from Instagram to create this view. The dreamlike haze revealed pieces of the city little by little forcing you to appreciate and take in what’s in front of you, a life lesson maybe… Or I could be justifying years worth of pollution. I’ll stick with the life lesson though.

It was this ride to Agra that I saw and fully appreciated the beauty of the Indian sky. I found what I was longing for and a cough I am currently nursing. Through this, India taught me my first lesson– sometimes you have to view things from a different perspective to see its beauty. Oh and to bring a gas mask next time I come to New Delhi.