Women selling flowers in the local market.

Local market

The real India resides in the marketplace

We just got back from the market. I was totally overstimulated. My senses were going crazy! So many scents: ripe fruit, Indian food, body odor, garbage, flowers. So many colors, people, goods, and noises from so many directions. It was almost too much to take in. I finally felt like I was experiencing the real India. It was magnificent, dirty, and beautiful simultaneously.

When we walked into a side market for food, we were greeted like celebrities. Everyone wanted us to take their picture, shake their hand, and wish us a Happy New Year. It was a strange feeling being such an outsider, yet so desired. I was actually kind of bothered that these people seemed to be placing us on a different level than them, as if they saw us as better. That could not be more off-base.

While in that side market, I saw something that took me by surprise at first. One woman, without shoes like most of the people in the marketplace, was sitting near her vending station on her tattered blanket and talking on a cell phone! India is such a combination of drastic opposites. The rich and the poor. The old and the new. A constant struggle between two extremes.

I cannot seem to shake the idea from yesterday's lecture that slums do not always mean poverty. While these people seem so unfortunate to me, many are not. Instead, there is simply no where for them to go.

My last thought right now from the market is how amazing it is that this is not pretend. After we leave India at the end of the month, life will go on here the same as it always has. This is reality, not just some performance for the visiting American tourists. Why was I born in the United States and blessed with all luxuries possible? Can I really just leave? Yet, at the same time, can I really judge India's situation? Who am I to say that America is better? I love India! I love the people, the colors, the hot weather, and the affect it's having on my understanding of the world.

Barbara Koehl

University of St. Thomas

St. Paul, MN 55105

Links checked Dec. 12, 2009

Copyright © 2009 Barbara Koehl