Check Out the Pictures
by Anna Ferguson (JD '08),
The Taj Mahal deserves all the hype. I was sceptical at first but it truly was amazing! So was the rest of Agra.
Unfortunately though, the only industry in Agra is tourism so the people are unbelievable aggressive towards tourists. But other than that it was great. We took the second class no A/C train there and back. It wasn't so bad since it was relatively cool and all the windows were open. There were quite a few beggers on the train. I gave a few of them some food and had to say no to the rest. It can be difficult with all the poverty everywhere, but I can't give all my money away either. After being hassled so much in Agra it was easier on the way back to Delhi to say no when people would tell me to give them money. If you arrived here tomorrow and just watched how I (and the other foreigners) act, you would probably be appalled. But it is really just the way things are done here. You can't be nice because everyone is trying to get money from you. At first I just gave in, thinking it only came to a couple dollars or whatever, but I have been here long enough now to know how it works.
At the train station before leaving Agra I was looking at books for sale at a bookstand on the platform. A boy about ten tapped my arm and asked for money. I shook my head and said no. Then he poked my breast, I assumed he was aiming for my arm and missed. I said no more firmly and picked up a book. He poked my chest again! I growled at him "don't tough me." (It had been an extremely long weekend and I was so fed up with people grabbing me and trying to hustle me etc.) The kid giggled and repeated "don't touch me" but then the book seller raised this huge stick and said something. I don't believe in hitting people with sticks, but it was nice to be left alone.
Last night a cycle rickshaw driver more than doubled the price he had agreed to. The Indian family I live with said not to pay more than 10 ruppees. The guy asked 40, we said no way, how about 15? He shrugged and said ok. When we got there we handed him 20, just to be nice, and he said no, I want 50 now! We argued for a minute and then walked away. So he spit at us! And we had paid him double the going rate!
I'm sure stories like that make it sound like I don't like it here, but I really do now. I have a much thicker skin and have adapted to the fact that many people act differently, especially to people that are obviously not from India. But you can't blame them. Its hard to make a living and westerners pretty much have dollar signs on their foreheads.
Work is going much better now. My work on analyzing the Indian budget and if it will allow India to achieve the Millenium Development Goals has started to take shape. This week I will go to Parliament and also meet with a non-government organization that does budget analysis from a human rights perspective. Hopefully they will give me some insights on my project. There is even discussion that my report will be an article in the magazine Combat Law. It will be very interesting because I have to make it very aggressively slanted against the government. I guess that's what human rights organizations do. Should be fun. I am also writing an introduction for a chapter in the book they are about to publish on HIV/AIDS and the Law. I don't know anything on the subject but was given the research so it won't be a problem.
There is a problem, however, in that now that I actually have work to do at work it is more difficult to write about the good stuff! The family I am living with said that I may use their computer and internet though, so maybe I'll start setting aside some time in the evenings to write to you all. I seem to have slacked off quite well now though, uploading all those pictures took awhile. I really hope you enjoy them. I will look into finding a website where I can keep all my pictures and download them quickly so you can see all of them. I had to delete quite a few because my memory card filled up just while I was in Agra. I had over 300 pictures!
I have less than 3 weeks left in India and I plan to make the most of it. If someone had told me the first week I was here that I would want to stay longer I would have had them committed. Funny how that works.