Pre Tricycle: India behind the scenes

Well the last few days have been very interesting. I have been happy to slip past the facade of tourist hustlers and pushy shop keepers to some of the more real behind the scenes views of India.

A single young jewelry salesman named Richy has befriended me and allowed me to sit and observe the workers in the small silver jewelry factory where he works. It is a fairly simple factory in the rooms of a small house where a couple of men sit cross legged at a low table, heating, filing and cutting to achieve beautifull rings and pendants. They showed me how they cast wax in small rubber molds and then use these to create a plaster of Paris mold for casting the silver. These cast parts are then hand worked, adorned with gem stones, buffed and then sent to the show room. They work from 10am until 8:30pm 6 days a week, for I think 3000 rupee, around $70 NZ per month. One of the workers invited to meet him at his home at 6am where I met his 10 year old son,  2 year old daughter, wife and grandfather, all living together in a room about half the size of a school bus. Hi son is crazy about cricket, as most Indian men I meet are, and rattled off all of the New Zealand cricket team names to me and the scores of the last game they had played against India. "When I grow up I will be a cricketer", he says with his small hand over his heart. He seemed fairly intelligent and read me a couple of stories from his school book in very good English. One was a simple child story about a corrupt politician stealing money that was supposed to be used to dig wells. I was served a breakfast of a butter and sugar sandwich and then asked to sketch a photo of the man with his arm around his wife. This man seems like a good father who has very little hope for the his future but lots for his children and has an active involvement in their lives.

Richy gave me directions to a silverware factory where I explained to the man I was a mechanical engineering student and interested in a tour. He said this was illegal but took me down into the underground rooms and preceded to give me a detailed tour of the vast warren of rooms where men sat spinning bowls, hammering designs, assembling boxes, sand blasting and polishing. The bosses of both these factories showed a great deal of superiority over their workers who jumped at their every command. Richy's boss will not sign a simple form allowing him to visit Sweden. Richy says this is due to wanting to be superior to his worker and not allowing him to have an experience he himself has not had. I have talked with Richy about the subject of castes and untouchability. The government has imposed that a certain percentage of jobs must be occupied by workers of lower castes. Richy finds this unfair and says that it often results in people unsuitable and lazy getting jobs while better applicants of higher castes miss out. There does still appear to be a suppression of certain casts. Richy's boss has employed an untouchable boy to serve tea, but doesn't seem allowed to do much else. Richy and the workers seem to respect and treat him well.

Richy took me out to a Bollywood movie. I was the only western guy there so was closely observed. I found it incredible, so dramatic and over the top with amazing music and dancing. People shout and cheer all through the movie which is perfectly acceptable.

I had a great walk yesterday up a hill to a sun temple where the sun rise shines through a doorway onto the figure of a sun god. A lady lives there and says that her family have owned the temple for 300 years since it was built. I helped her to drape out her damp washing and was offered tea and chapati in return. I continued on to Galta, an incredibly beautiful location with a temple wedged in a rocky valley. There are holy pools full of people bathing and a green lawn adorned in bright pink and orange sarees which women have laid out to dry. I meat one business student who sat and chatted with me for a couple of hours and invited me to dinner at his home tonight. I will be interesting to see inside the home of a middle class family.

I spent one night sleeping in Richy's flat, which is a tiny room with a mat on the floor. We chatted into the night about his experience of tigers in his village and about his father who he describes as a very good and physically strong man which drank 2 litters of milk a day but died sadly of chicken pocks when Richy was 7. Richy had to start working along side his schooling at the age of 10. He worked in construction, well digging, tree felling, teaching and now jewelry sales. His mother still lives in the country, and the money he earns helps to support her and his brothers children. His brother drinks to much and does not care for his children's education, so Richy says it is his obligation and he loves them like his own. When I asked if he wanted children he said, that there were too many people in India all ready.

A popular topic with the men here seems to be sex. Within the first minute of my meeting someone they are unashamedly requesting details on what they expect should be the raging sex life of a healthy young western man. I leave them shocked and disaponted but they continue to talk about there own feelings and experiences. I guess I should expect little less from the country which invented the Karmasutra.


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