Wednesday, February 16, 2005

this one is upsetting. don't read it if you're easily upset

life is cheap and we are sad soft westerners
i know that people will ask how our trip was and what we thought of india when we get home and i just don't know what i'll say.... it's such a huge experience on so many levels that it may not be possible to convey hardly a fraction of what it's been. we had a big shock of the reality of the everyday dangers and cheapness of life here this week and i'm sharing it here as a part of our overall experience with india but it's not a nice one.
we had just gotten off a train in bharatpur and were standing on the platform with our bags, fending off a few hopeful porters and sorting out how to get to our hotel. the train started up again and began moving along slowly. when the 3rd class compartments rolled by i commented to maurice, a friend who arrived in india 2 weeks ago and is traveling with us, to look and see how packed they are - so full that people hang out the windows and doors and luggage is held over heads. one car went by with about 6 guys holding onto each other on the doorway, none with more than a toe and hand hold on the car, and just as i said that alot of people die that way (or so we've read but never seen til now),the one on the outside (maybe 20 years old) fell maybe 30 feet from us and there was a terrible series of events where he hit the ground and his legs got caught between the train and the platform but pulled loose and he turned to face us and maybe get up on his hands but then got caught between 2 cars and crushed in the middle and then snapped down between the car and the wall and dragged off a hundred feet or so where the train finally stopped just long enough to free his body and then kept going. the whole time we watched but were helpless to do anything and it was terrible to see his face that second before he got pulled in for good and just became a lifeless body. there was a moment i thought that we could help with first aid but it was just too fast and horrible and then over. this is a common occurance here - few other people reacted much, we walked off shaking and pale, almost sick, while most everyone else continued chatting and smiling, a few looking over the edge at his remains, officials making their way over but not running. as soon as we passed his body a beggar woman holding a grubby naked baby sent her older child crawling up to us on one leg and one knee length stump to hang on to my sleeve and grin and beg as we stumbled past. another beggar woman squatted gazing down at what was left of the boy who'd fallen and i felt a touch of anger cut through the shock and horror that this mom didnt get her child a cane or at least a stick so that he or she (i couldn't tell) could walk upright instead of scraping their stump along in a perpetual groveling half squat, that there seemed to be no dignity allowed in life or death and this boy wouldn't even make the local paper because, as our hotel owner told us later, even in a fairly small town such as this these things happen every day.
i don't really know what else to say about this.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Valerie said...

I know what you feel. It happened on the train I was in between Bangalore and Mysore.
There are no words, just a very strong feeling, hard to explain , hard to share and a different way to look at and consider things after that. See you soon

12:17 AM  
Blogger Santanu said...

Yes, it sure is upsetting! I am Indian and haven't seen such a thing in my entire life...though I have seen a body once on the track! Sickening, sad, avoidable...but inspite of big words and pseudo concern, I suppose we all have got used to it! Everybody has their own reasons- the boy had to travel, the train authorities had to restrict themselves to limited number of cars, the train had to continue after knowing that it was too late to stop, the begger kids mother had to prevent him/her from using a stick to get more sympathy!!

7:19 PM  

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