Sunday, November 6, 2011

I Opine - Pic heavy warning!

First and foremost - I stole the title for this blog from a very respectable blog. The term just fits so well with what I need to say. If you enjoy hearing things like they are, then I encourage you to visit "The Blunt Blog" which is written by a fellow expat blogger that I admire and respect. As with most personal blogs, that is her opinions there and often she has such good insight to pass along on just about every topic and I guarantee she's not going to sugar coat something just to cater to the haters that may not like it. That deserves respect!

Since it's come to light that some people may not understand why I feel as I do I would like to share some things here that may explain why I feel the way I do. I grew up in what would be known in India as a village. There were a very small number of people in my town. We had the middle school, the next town over had the high school and another town had the elementary school. That's how small it was. In the US we also have strict laws against littering (throwing trash on the streets). In these towns and every town I've ever lived in which includes some bigger cities in the US (I lived in a total of 6 states) the people who live in them take pride in keeping them clean. So much so that the residents go out and clean up the streets including maintaining trees, weeds, plants and anything else there so that the neighborhoods stay clean and beautiful. This is the norm in East Coast America. I cannot speak for all areas of the country but I can say that I've been to Queens - one of the worst areas of America and it was still not as dirty as Amritsar.

When I say dirt, I'm talking actual dirt and trash that has been thrown in the streets. Like this. (And keep in mind I didn't even bother to take pictures of the worst areas. I was too busy covering my nose and eyes to prevent more infections!)

Amritsar, India, intercultural relationships, marriage, cross cultural

Amritsar, India, Punjab, intercultural relationships, cross cultural, marriage

Here are pictures of my living areas so you can see there is no trash anywhere nearby. This is how clean I'm used to living. And inside is even cleaner because I come from a long line of clean freaks. Not every American home is as clean as the ones I grew up in but we did not have dust, bugs or fingerprints in our home at any time. They were always cleaned up and kept out.

understanding intercultural relationships, cross-cultural, intercultural

This is a terrible pic but I took it from my second story kitchen window. It shows quite a good section of the very small city I lived in and as you can see there is 0/No/Absolutely zero trash on the road, in the yards, etc. That building on the left is an apartment complex and the brick structure to the right of it is the trash area. Even that looks clean.

intercultural, cross-cultural, relationships, blended families

That's me and my grandpa. The picture was taken about 30 years ago but gives you an idea of where I grew up and how clean it was even then. That is my uncles house in the background which is where we are going. Yes, the grass and weeds were high at that time but notice how there is no trash on the road still. The white things on the lower left are flowers.

Getting older we moved into the city. That's me and my brother sometime in the 80's. trash and I must admit things were pretty rough for us as a family then and this was one of the areas where poor people in the city lived. This is also while we lived in the joint family with my great grandmother, grandmother, cousins family, and two teenage boys mentioned in my last blog post.

This picture is more recent, taken along the side of a major route of travel between cities. Still, no trash. I only wish I could have found more pictures of our actual cities with the roads in the backgrounds. Since I have very few with me that meet that description I can't post them but I think you get the idea. I should also mention not all these pictures were taken by me (obviously). I only took the first one and the rest my mother took.

In America there are very high penalties for throwing trash on the roads and the police are strict about it in most towns. Virginia, where I am from is well known for having the strictest police who will give you tickets for this faster than any other state. They are also known for handing out speeding tickets faster than any other state as well so if you go there you better be on your best behavior lol.

So when I say Amritsar is dirty you now know it's because I grew up in exceptionally clean circumstances. I have never lived in a city this crowded and with so few trees. I will never change my stance. I don't hate Amritsar, I hate how sick I get here. I do however find it very difficult for a village/farm girl like myself who is used to having the world at her spoiled fingertips to adjust to living in a concrete jungle where most everything I love is simply not available. And yes, I have searched big stores, small stores and used all of Rohits connections looking for many of the things that bring me comfort and most have not been imported or simply would not sell enough here to be worth the merchants time to bring in.

I don't expect my readers to blindly agree. Some of you have been here and some of you have not. My intention for this blog has never been to provide authoritative information and I've stated it a few times that this blog is based on my "limited" experience. I haven't even been here a year. I do not understand Indian culture, Punjab culture or even Amritsar culture 100% and I never will. I don't intend to. My intention with this blog is to share my story with others so that they can be prepared for things they may face if they happen to wind up on a similar road as me and I've stated that before too.


  1. Thank you! I write it as I see it. Glad to have you as a reader!

  2. I really enjoy your blog, you seem to be so kind-hearted and honnest.

  3. Absolutely! Expats that know better and tourists are the worst! They are only making the problem worse for everyone. They have the chance to lead by example and I know from living here that it works. Slowly but surely people will follow the example you set. It's just sad.

  4. I am in Mumbai it appals me, people have no sense of cleanliness, and I'm  talking about highly educated NRI type people visiting Juhu beach and throwing their plastic bottle and wrappers in the sand, I'm aware that there is poverty and people who never saw a dustbin in their life, but there are plenty trotting around in designer gear who are just the biggest pigs I've ver seen, it's not a battle of the uneducated vs the uneducated, it's just plain sheer lack of respect and civism. Oh and there are those who brag about "Oh in US it is all so clean, I love it so much, nothing like India yaar" and then 5 minutes later they throw something on the ground, and when you point it to them like a friend did to one person she knew the person goes on saying "Yeah but this is India, it's filthy already here, so this is ok"...ummm no it is NOT! I mean don't go bragging about US being clean and whining about India being dirty if yourself as a returning NRI don't even want to keep it clean...duh!

    Yesterday I was in Bandra with my cousin, we went to the fort, despite there being signs everywhere in hindi and English to remind people to keep it clean, dustbinds every 5 meters with bold writing on them to signal them, none of the bins was full, all the trash was all over the ground in the entire fort premises...ewwwwww!
    There are people of all classes going there, but interestingly, in the hour we've spent there, I've seen only well off young people carrying food stuff and throwing stuff around.

  5. I didn't take offense, no worries. I can tell by your choice of words that there was no negativity in the post. I just thought maybe it would be good to be sure of what I was trying to portray.

    Thanks for your comments!

  6. I am planning a blog post on that! Most of the time there is just the normal daily smell that isn't bad at all. It just comes from the air quality and then you only have to deal with the occasional bad smell here and there like in the US. I think it's a common misconception among Americans that some other countries (not just India) and their people smell bad. I'm also going to touch on the non-existent "curry" smell. I just gotta find time to write it.

    Delhi, even in the dirty parts is quite a bit cleaner than Amritsar - even now that the games are over. I noticed a huge area where the embassies and more elegant and upper class homes are have people cleaning the streets. It's proof that advancements towards a cleaner India are doing well. Delhi will pave the way and other cities will follow. I'm certain I would be much better off in a city like Delhi and wouldn't have run into these same frustrations.

  7. Actually my post was not directed at you, per se. I just wanted to give the view from the other side for the readers coming to your blog :)

    I have been to developed countries myself and have seen the difference and how much work still needs to be done here. But from what I have seen in last 10-20 yrs. things are certainly moving in the right direction.

    I hope you get well soon :)

  8. It's funny because before my trip to India, I kept hearing from people how it would smell and there'd be trash everywhere. I spent most of my time in Delhi and was pleasantly surprised at the cleanliness! Granted, where I stayed was a factor since the city was preparing for the Commonwealth Games, which were close to Aj's parent's and friends' homes. But when we ventured out to other parts, I could see the trash. Luckily, Delhi has a decent supply of parks (Lodi Garderns was beautiful!!) and trees lining the streets in some areas.  But the dust definitely got to me in some places!

  9. Naren, I see improvements being made. It is sad the bins were stolen because that was a great effort. My only point is comparing my environment now and then so that anyone who reads my blog can understand that I'm not making random and mean comments about Amritsar for the fun of it. It is meant to shed light on my perspective. (Of course I think you were one of the few who already understood since you pegged me as Lara Dutta in Challo Dilli long before this post lol - and I appreciate that because it shows your personal level of intellect.)

    Regardless of how long it's been independent, Indians do know it's wrong to throw trash out. I've seen it and they are being educated outside of their homes as well. I applaud every effort because the more pride they take in their personal environment the more they will fight for a better future for this country in all aspects - including corruption and lokpal and everything else. That is the beauty of independence. As for your poverty comments - from what I see the less fortunate the people are, the cleaner their area seems to be here so they definitely get the idea and seem to be doing the most for this aspect of the country. It's possible they realize this clean thing is a good way to make money and they are cleaning up to sell the scrap or something but either way it's working and that's great.

    I actually look forward to a day when I can visit India and see a much more beautiful and clean landscape because I know it is coming. Delhi is getting there from what I see in many areas and I noticed Chandigarh is also making good progress. I haven't been out in other cities but I can tell it's happening since those two cities are leaders and everyone follows the leader.

  10. Good point! I hadn't even thought about it from your perspective (last sentence). The temples are always so clean inside. I also notice a few business owners and who make it a point to clean outside their establishments and those places are so nice and inviting and make a ton of money. Smaller business owners don't seem to have realized this yet though. As for homes, I can't imagine throwing trash out in the streets and even Rohit says it's not done in the neighborhoods because no one wants to look bad and if you throw it on someone elses section of the road it can cause a riot. So they know it's disrespectful but they just don't see it the same if it's common property like the roads and such. It's sad.

  11. I've don the same thing! I carried an ice cream wrapper for over an hour in the car before we got where we were going and I could find a trash can. I do things like that all the time. When they make fun of me I give them a kinda rude "in the US we are taught that we don't live in a trash can" comment lol. It works and I've noticed less trash not being put in trash cans by the people I've said it to. >:D

    II think maybe people behave abroad because of that initial need to fit in. I'm sure it's sometimes harder for Indians to fit in when they leave India than it is for me coming here. I've been well accepted which I found strange but I won't argue lol. (I was so ready for some level of racism which I thought was normal and it hasn't happened which is soooo good!) Maybe after being around for a while they figure out the laws and then know it's never good to get in trouble with the law or get arrested in a foreign country. No one would want to embarrass their family either. That may explain it.

    I'm not OCD however I do have some of the same strict cleanliness tendencies. Mine just come from being in homes where every spot was taken care of as soon as it showed up. We even scrub door frames, door handles, and every single corner and edge of every baseboard on a regular basis. Normally when I'm upset I clean because it releases all my tension. However, here even when I clean things don't look much different and I get no satisfaction from it. We have fresh paint in some of the rooms now so I'm on a mission to keep it that way. I'm hoping it works lol.

  12. Yeah, it's very different here in many ways from everywhere I've ever lived.

  13. Your dad his honorable! I get excited when I see "Keep Amritsar Green" signs up where someone is starting a campaign to get this place cleaned up. It does seem to be helping in some areas too. We have similar campaign signs up and it also reminds me of home. I know Amritsar is heading towards being a much cleaner place. I just don't think I will see it before I leave.

  14. Hm... First of all.. its bad to compare india to a developed and scarcely populated country like US. They got their independence like 200 yrs. ago. They had time to build their society and make rules. Indian state is just 60 yrs. old. India needs time to mature. Things are changing but slowly, as it happens in a democracy with its push and pulls. 

    There are more pressing needs in this country than cleanliness as of now. The govt. needs to feed the hungry, get electricity, water and roads to each village. It takes a lot of money and time. Hygiene will come soon. But we need to be patient.

    I am in no way satisfied with the present, but I know we are on right track. Few more decades of the same pace of development and India will start thinking about dirt, hygiene and aesthetics.

    Somebody mentioned why govt doesnt put bins in public places. I remember a couple of years back there was an initiative to install bins near bus stands in Delhi and 3 months down the line, they all disappeared. They were taken by people who had no means to earn any money. They were sold to scrap dealers so that they can buy some food or maybe charas !!  You seriously cant expect the police to look after these bins. 

    The story is same, until we pull the people above poverty, you just cant stop these things. 

    PS: Regarding chintan's blog, the first entry itself regarding those killings in mumbai put me off. Yes its her opinion, but she prolly has no idea of the India before jessica lal murder case.

  15. The littering is the most annoying thing I've to deal with in India.Like you I'm also from a very small village and we have a farm.

    To have so much rubbish in the streets is smelly, ugly and above all this UNHYGIENIC.I always ask why the government doesn't provide for bins and containers and they just say that the government has bigger problems to take care of like education, etc.True or not they seem to have enough "pocket money" I say.But people also need to be educated.Why they can keep their temples and houses clean and not the country?.

  16. First and foremost! Thank you so much. I observed I was receiving lots of traffic from your blog and wondered, what on earth happened :D Then I came here and I see I have not even commented here and then I see the mention <3 You made my day.....

    And oh well, about the dirt. I had written a post few days back about how Indians settle abroad and "behave", which is fortunate and unfortunate too. We do not care to keep our country clean, but we behave when outside as we can either be charged or its illegal or frowned upon and so many other things.

    I recall an incident. During festive seasons we have these little functions, "pandaals" and I had visited one such. I ate ice creams and rest of the group/friends too. We were more than half a dozen, all educated, engineers. I was looking for a trash bin to throw the pack, but I couldn't find any trash bin. There was absolutely no trash bin in sight, the cleaners may come next morning or they may just leave the place dirty. And guess what, the group made fun of me for holding on to the ice cream wrap :| The same folks will go to usa/uk and behave. I wonder why...well not all...some may still not behave.

    Today I got carried away coz I have OCD and I freak out when I do not find things clean.

  17. These are gorgeous pictures.  However, I can't believe some of the things that happen in different places.  It's craziness. @GlamKitten88 

  18. I totally see where you're coming from. I grew up in Mumbai and even back then, I was appalled at the way people just threw things out of their windows & cars. My dad still tries to get people to change their ways when he sees someone spitting on the road. But now that every third person has a weapon, we've asked him to stop!

    And yeah, The Blunt Blog really is awesome! I throroughly enjoy reading it everyday.