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Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Tidbits Seen From the Bus

Stray Dogsstray dogs

We noticed a lot of stray dogs that appeared to be calm and very quiet. Could be they were malnourished, but compared to stray dogs in the United States, the temperament was remarkably different. We wondered if living in a society where animals are treated with kindness (in other words, no one yelling or throwing rocks at strays there) there is no reason for the dogs to act aggressively.

BARBER SHOP

barber shop

I rode the bus with my camera open, finger on the shutter ready to press, aperture set to sports mode trying to freeze the frame in something close to a sharp focus. This shot of a barber shop as we passed on the highway from Jaipur to Delhi gave us a glimpse of real life.

LAND OWNERSHIP

DSCF6544aMany small parcels of land are lined with stone walls to identify private ownership. Many were fallow, appearing to be not have been used for farming or forage for quite some time.

CONSTRUCTION TIMBERS

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We use 2x4s; they use saplings with the bark removed, to provide support for construction projects.

ROADSIDE TEA SHOP

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I can imagine that many of these do not do huge business, but it is the kind of place where everyone knows your name.

DECORATED TRUCKS

DSCF6542Many trucks had a posy of flowers  affixed to the rear view mirror on the driver’s side.  This is only one small part of the decoration of most trucks, which are appreciated greatly as helping the family earn a living.

SWIMMING HOLE

DSCF6548The last day we were in India, driving from Jaipur to Delhi for 6 hours, was the hottest. I noticed first one and then another places were young boys were splashing water from the community cistern. I finally got one picture where a bucket splash was not enough!

BRICK WORKS

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Tall smokestacks belching black smoke indicate that the bricks are drying in the kiln.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Getting in Deeper and Understanding I am a Part of the Problem

The personal tour angle will understandably not appeal to everyone, but consider the option when you next travel. The benefit of hiring a personal guide is that the day can be very much responsive to your likes and desires. If we had asked to see Indian art in Agra or listen to Indian music or take in a Bollywood movie, I know that is what they would have shown us.  But we wanted to see how people live…that’s our “thing.”

Bilal asked if we wanted to see a leather factory where they make shoes. He happens to know the owner, although he was unable to reach him on his phone. We had a discussion about the leather. Since cows hold a special status in Hindu culture (more on that in another blog), we wondered if they used cowhide, and yes, they do. Also, goatskin and camel leather.

Up to this point our SmartTour visits to factories were showrooms of high quality where we were served tea or something cold to drink, offered the use of the clean toilets and had the craft explained, the better to appreciate the workmanship. For some reason I expected something similar. Instead, we visited a sweatshop.

I don’t know if you remember but it seems that we hear about factory collapses or fires in India or Bangladesh or Pakistan at least once or twice a year, so it did cross my mind. The place was not large, built of concrete and about 4 stories high.

DSCF6174Workers on the ground floor were seated around two large tables putting finishing touches on Bata women’s shoes and sandals.  Each man had a repetitive task which would be automated in a western factory. Benefit here: these men have work.DSCF6175On the upper levels the workers were putting the shoes together in the earlier stages, many sitting on the floor. DSCF6179

I noticed the ceiling fans were keeping the inside temperature about what the outside was-about 90 degrees. I also noticed no heating source for the winter.DSCF6185

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Although I thought I recognized the Bata name, the website indicates no stores in the US. Perhaps some shoes make it into outlets. The company has world wide distribution and this sweatshop is only one of many that have contracts to supply finished shoes.  Bilal made a comment that his friend, the factory owner, had a beautiful house as nice as the hotel lobby where he picked us up. I questioned him about the wages earned by the workers and was assured they made enough.  There is no pension plan, no insurance options, no vacation package.

In our desire to purchase clothes and other goods at the “best” price, we have long overlooked the need to support our own economy by purchasing American made goods. Here our workers make more money because we have laws to provide safe working environments, and other protections.  Our products cost more because of it.

I often read comments on Facebook about how people don’t like the way some of the big box stores limit their workers to less than full time work to avoid paying benefits and thereby cause them to require participation in public assistance programs to live. But I still see lots and lots of cars in those WalMart parking lots. People complain that they are on tight budgets and Walmart prices offers them a chance to buy the latest doodad advertised on tv.  but until each one of us curbs our own consumerism to purchase only quality American made products, we are culpable in the decline of jobs in this country as the factory owners take their work to the lowest paid people elsewhere in the world. Greed on their part to make huge profits and yes, greed on our part to buy buy buy within our budgets instead of looking at the bigger picture.