In April 2010, I went to India. Apparently that’s one of the less ideal times of the year to go, it being the start of summer, and summers in India tend to be warm. I remember walking out of Indira Gandhi airport and being hit by a blast of heat like I’d just opened the door of a 400F oven. (It was actually only 46C according to local weather reports, but I was born in the US, so conversions, you know, I’m not so good at.) Anyway, while I was there, I saw many incredible things. This was the first.
Shortly after arriving in New Delhi and settling in at my hotel, I decided to go check out Connaught Place (officially renamed Rajiv Chowk Place, but still generally referred to by locals as “CeePee”). CP is a popular shopping district. Picture a strip mall that you’ve grabbed the ends of and pulled toward each other to almost form a circle and you sort of get an idea.
I was supposed to meet up with some local friends after they got off work and I had time to kill, so I wandered around a bit. Wandering without purpose as I was usually isn’t a good idea in New Delhi — or any other urban area anywhere in India for that matter — because you’ll be quickly identified as a tourist and targeted by a throng of people selling everything imaginable, even the unimaginable.
I have low tolerance for people in general and I had an especially hard time with the overly-polite “hello, sir!” spiel of the Delhi huckster. I managed to escape the riot of color and action and people of the underground market at CP and when I resurfaced, found this relatively quiet, greenspace in the centre of the circle. I decided to sit for a moment to catch my breath. Of course, that was a mistake. Not 10 seconds later, I was approached by this man — I believe his name was Mohan — who asked me where I was from. Resigned to my fate, I told him I was from Canada. He then asked me if I spoke French or English. Now, it was getting interesting. I told him both, in response to which he produced a ledger, which looked to be full with the scrawlings of previous victims — er, customers. He thumbed through it until he found several entries apparently by Canadians, in both official languages. I was impressed despite myself. Then he told me what he did.
For 20 rupees (less than 50 cents CAD/US), he will give you an ear-cleaning like you’ve never had before. I said, please, no thank you, but I offered him the same money if he let me take his picture. Even after that, he still wanted to clean my ears, but I begged off. I have my limits. But check out the video below to see someone else who went for it.
He’s an example of one of the things that amazed me the most about India: the resourcefulness of the people. As I travelled around a bit, I saw what people in North America would call abject poverty, but the people here were still making a living. They don’t stop to feel sorry for themselves because they just don’t have that luxury. They squeeze everything they can from the little resources they have. I was amazed and ashamed at my own wastefulness and grateful that I have the luxury of living in a place where I can be wasteful, embarrassing as that is to admit.
Yeah, I know travel bloggers say this shit all the time, but hey it’s my story. I did see much worse poverty in other places, but that’s another story for another time.