Sunday, January 02, 2005
Not my typical day off in India
Normally, I would spend a lot of my precious Sunday making up for the short comings of the Adyar Pest House:
doing laundry in a bucket
cooking a real breakfast for myself
replacing the petrol that keeps disappearing from my bike overnight
Well, I still had to do those things, but I added a little sensitivity, you know, getting in touch with my feminine side. I spent the afternoon volunteering at AID-India. I was easily the oldest person there and the only foreigner. It was basically grunt work: loading and unloading relief supplies from trucks and warehouses. Men did all the lifting, women made entries on clip boards and gave orders. My advice to the young, ideological lads working with me today: get used to it ;^(
BTW, clothes are NOT wanted, medicines are the top priority. This morning's newspaper quoted a fisherman as saying his children wear nothing less than Rs.500 clothes and second-hand was inappropriate. Damn, I was wearing a nice Arrow shirt today valued at Rs.150. Our gorgeous Madras Bull golf shirts are Rs.250. Note to self: I need to do more fishing.
This evening, I saw the movie Pay It Forward for the third time and still got a wispy eye. Don't worry, I'm not going thru some humanitarian change of life. Come Judgment Day, I'm still meeting my friends for the marshmallow roast ;^)
Saturday, January 01, 2005
Where does charity go in India?
The last three years in Chennai have taught me to be cautious and probably less generous. Regarding the local tragedies associated with last Sunday's tsunamis, I've given clean clothing and dry foods, but I won't hand over cash to anyone. Tomorrow, I hope to give my time and labor in a clean-up operation, but I'll only have fresh fruit to share with the beggars sure to congregate around a white man.
Here in India, it's not like the US where organizations are audited by the government to show the percentage of the donations reaching the victims. Here, corruption is a way of life starting with the traffic cop at every intersection. Here, Indians shrug their shoulders at the cheating that occurs in school and business. If you give a few coins to a begging child, the money goes to a "boss".
From yesterday's newspaper, The Hindu:
"There is no coordinated effort in checking the quality of the
food supplied...some people are distributing ice creams to
children staying on the Pondicherry University campus...this can
create many health problems...already children have fever said a
doctor in the medical assistance team. In many camps, men were
spending the money given to them as interim relief on liquor."
Politicians and NGOs (Non Government Organizations) have been
calling for the role of 'District Collectors' who could coordinate
relief efforts. As it stands now, "There have been reports
of 'dumping' of old clothes which are not wanted and also
duplication of food supplies to the same relief centres."
BTW, to the Sri Lankans who say the US isn't doing enough [yesterday's BBC TV News], I say:
1. Where were you after 4 hurricanes ripped thru Florida this past Summer?
2. We're so sorry to have troubled you. We'll leave Sri Lanka and mind our own business for a change.