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Interpreting India, Part Three

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Robyn C. Morris, Amish Tour Guide

Introduction:  My daughter married a man she had met in India while studying there.  She has lived in New Delhi for the past nine years.  Through their wedding and births of three grandchildren, plus other visits, I have visited India seven times, each visit has been between two and five weeks.

I have spoken to a few of the Amish school children about life in India.  I start out by saying that NOTHING is the same as in the US.  Now, of course, that is a small exaggeration.  People are the same.  Everyone eats.  Everyone sleeps.  But the entire experience of daily life in India is so completely different, that it is nearly unimaginable.

I encourage the Amish kids to ask me about anything, because every question turns out to be a good one!  Here are some of their questions, and my answers.

Q:  Do they hunt in India?  Hunting for sport and for family food is a large part of Amish culture.  It is not part of Indian culture, generally.  Gun ownership is very rare in India, and while not illegal to own firearms, the legal process for possession could take years.  When stored at home, guns must be broken down and locked in a gun safe.  Guns might be owned for competitive shooting, but they are not practical for personal safety.  Armed guards carry guns, but the average citizen does not.  Gun violence in India is one-tenth of that in the U.S.  (source:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/india-had-the-one-of-the-strictest-gun-laws-in-the-world-it-just-got-tighter/2016/08/01/affd9422-51da-11e6-b652-315ae5d4d4dd_story.html?utm_term=.97f4647a23c0)

Q:  Do they like to live in the countryside?  (To the reader:  you must understand the context.  Amish children are comparing our peaceful bucolic Geauga County life to the hustle-bustle of the big city.  My answer surprises them.)

Most people with the financial resources to live anywhere in India choose to live in the city.  Only very poor people live in small villages or out in the countryside.  There is often no plumbing, no electricity, and no reliable transportation in the countryside.  A village might have a community toilet building and shower house.  The services that we take for granted are not available to many people of the world.

There are some exceptions.  Some very wealthy people might have a stylish “farmhouse” which could have plumbing and electricity, plus a few acres, a garden, and some livestock.  Think of a “gentleman farmer”.  But this is not common.

Well-to-do Indians prefer living in the city.

Q:  Are the trees and flowers the same as here?  No.  Most of India is quite a bit warmer than here in Ohio.  The trees are quite different, and the flowers are stunning, colorful, and beautiful. Much of what we can grow here in Ohio would not be able to grow in India.  On the other hand, they can grow many of the fruits and vegetables there that we need to ship in from South America or California.  Here is my photo of giant flowers on trees.

Q:  Do they have the same wild animals that we have here in Ohio?  Well, there is a kind of deer that lives in the country.  That may be the only recognizable similarity between here and there.  Running rampant throughout city and country are monkeys!  But these are not friendly monkeys.  Keep your distance.  Think of them as like raccoons.  You don’t want to get bitten.  There are small mammals that are called squirrels, but are much closer to our chipmunks.  And they have lizards and geckos that sometimes get inside the house.  You might look up and see one on your living room ceiling.  They are no bigger than an adult’s hand.

In the jungle, you could also encounter wild tigers, elephants, water buffalo and bears.  Oh, and the birds!  Peacocks found in both city and country.  Did you know that the word “jungle” is from the Indian Hindi language?

Q:  How is the weather different there?  Keep in mind that India is a large land-mass, and I am discussing only the Delhi area.  The capital city, Delhi, has never seen snow (so I am told).  The winter temperatures might get down to 40 degrees at the coldest, during the night.  But the winter days warm up to the mid-60s.  Even so, Indians bundle up for this weather in scarves, hats, and other warm clothing.  But there is some justification.  Most houses, even expensive ones, do not have central heating.  My daughter lives in a very fine building in a very fine area.  They do not have heat, other than a portable space heater that they can move from room to room.  So, in the mornings, they will wear heavy socks and sweaters to keep warm, until the day warms up.

By March or April, the temperatures reach 90 degrees.  In May – the hottest month – most days are above 100 degrees, sometimes exceeding 120.  Most houses, shops, and businesses DO have air conditioning.  When the temperatures in May do not go below 100 degrees overnight for several days, people with no air conditioning could die from the heat.

In late June and through July, the Monsoon arrives.  This is cause for celebration.  They say, “The rain has come.”  It rains – hard – every day, for hours.  There is flooding.  But the monsoon takes the temperatures down to a livable 85 degrees or so.  There is more humidity, but at least the temperature is not life-threatening.

Monsoon ends by late August.  September is still very warm, but October and November are quite pleasant, with temperatures in the 70s and 80s.  The air pollution doesn’t get really bad until late November, December, and January.

Although December has temperatures in the 50s and 60s, there is significant air pollution, caused by many factors.  Farmers outside of the city burn their fields after the crops are harvested. This creates smoke in the air. In addition, the many homeless people burn little camp fires all along the roadside to keep warm at night. A guard stationed overnight at a guard shack might also keep a fire.  You know what it’s like here when people are burning leaves?  Now, imaging those burning leaf piles – thousands of them – each only about 50 feet from the other.  Compounding the smoke pollution, Delhi is located in a land depression, like a bowl.  So, the smoke settles, and the wind doesn’t carry it away.  This is especially bad when there is cloud cover.  Spring, Summer, and Fall are not as polluted because there are not the nighttime outdoor wood fires.

Robyn Morris has been involved in our community as a local tour guide, bed and breakfast proprietor, and volunteer.  She was the creator of the “Ghosts of Burton Historical Tour”, and is quite knowledgeable about Amish culture.  Morris has lived in Geauga County for over 30 years.  Her other interests include history and historical architecture, as well as cooking and fine dining.  And of course, traveling near and far.

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