We began our day by switching hotels. We were paying approximately 13.75 USD for a triple, with a non-functioning bathroom, squatter, and cooler. But we’re now paying approximately 16.25 USD for a larger double, with a functioning bathroom, western toilet, and AC. Its not that we need AC or a western toilet, but for 2.5 USD, it was worth it to us. Especially for our first few days here. For those of you who know how cheap I am, it is nice to be in a place where money isn’t a much of a factor in most decisions. A shave and massage cost me .50 USD. A big dinner may cost us 6 USD. Yesterday I bought a soft serve at McDonalds for .20 USD. A combo meal would’ve cost between 1.50 and 3 USD. Europe would’ve been about 10 USD. I bought a Financial Times today for .06 USD. Six cents, compared to a couple dollars at home. I really noticed that my paradigm had shifted when I checked the rupee-dollar exchange rate before I checked the stock tables.
On the other hand, the same economic forces that allow me to travel without working for several years, works against those born into less desirable circumstances. Although Delhi is the capital and a relatively affluent city, the poverty is still constantly visible. Of course some countries have higher standards of living than others, but there’s people beyond poor here. The photo above is a toddler that was trying to hawk cheap necklaces. Barely able to talk or walk, she was already working. There’s the bicycle-rickshaw wallahs that pedal us around town- men and boys with skeletal physiques that strain their bodies to the limit for next to nothing. We rode by my old school today (Delhi University, Faculty of Arts) and it looked beautiful. But I remembered the construction workers that I saw building the new courtyard a couple years ago. Families- men, women, children, and toddlers- who worked all day for approximately 1.50 USD per adult. That’s nothing. How do you live on that?
Of course, there’s those that cannot work. The lepers and amputees that beg at stairwells and on sidewalks. The ones that tap us as we wait at lights in auto-rickshaws. The people that we try not look in the eye when approaching and pretend not to see as we pass. I realize that we’re the people Jesus spoke against in his “The Good Samaritan” parable. Joylani and I are no different that the millions of people that ignore the problem everyday here in Delhi. The more I think about the poverty, the more hopeless it seems. And so I ignore it. What am I going to do? Give to every beggar that approaches us? Tend to every person that needs help on the street? When I lived in India, I came to the conclusion that the only thing I could do are little things. Tip a little more, pack my leftovers at restaurants to give away, buy begging kids a snack if there’s a food stand around. Joylani and I (and you too, if you know how to read this, use a computer, and the internet) are infinitely more fortunate than hundreds of thousands in Delhi. We cannot solve the problems or help everyone. But we can help a little, perhaps one or two people a day. I tried to wrap this topic up quick, otherwise I could write pages and pages. This is just a brief snapshot of the poverty and my thoughts on it.