“Because from childhood I know no human being died because of poverty – everything happens because of ignorance.”
Cycling through Suru valley was wonderful as I mentioned in my last post, but one unfortunate factor, something I have talked about before as it has followed me through India and Nepal, started to ruin it for me.
Imagine that every single child you pass (dozens a day, maybe closer to sixty or seventy through populous areas), and even some adults, throw their hand out when they see you and say, “give me chocolate,” or “give me money.” No hello, no good day, no preamble whatsoever except give me, give me, give me. And keep in mind these aren’t poor kids. No, these aren’t beggars, or the homeless, in fact, often times these are the same kids you later see on their fancy little smartphones. But they have been taught from their parents (and Kevin and I suspect at school as well) that the second you see a white person pass, the appropriate response is to demand something from them.
I first saw the “give me candy” phenomenon in Nepal where the children in trekking regions, who were at one time given money or candy by stupid tourists, are especially violent with their demands. It then started up a bit in Kashmir, but got especially horrible through Suru valley where literally every single person we passed demanded chocolate or, the speciality of the region it seems, “one pen.” (Took us at least a dozen children to realize they were indeed asking for pens. We assume they learn this one from their teachers). These children don’t need pens, in fact, they probably had a few in their school bag at that time, but they all knew to say the exact same phrase when they saw us… Give me, give me, give me.
Besides being annoying, it is sad that other tourists have ruined it for the rest of us by portraying us white people as candy and money dispensaries. It’s a shame that in many of these areas we are no longer seen as humans, but as objects, and this objectification and extremely annoying harassment has made India miserable much of the time. It seems that only the oldest generation, such as the nice man who offered us his field (read the last post), wants nothing from us. Everyone else demands candy or money, a photo (which we always refuse), or even just a conversation purely because we are white. It’s a sad fact when having a photo of yourself pretending to be friends with a complete stranger who is lighter than you makes you cool. Being hassled dozens and dozens of times a day, every single day without fail purely because of my skin color has become the most frustrating part of India, and has made me realize that I have absolutely no desire to ever come back.
Now, it isn’t actually their faults. After meeting many wealthy tourists, you know, the kind with three DSLR cameras around their front who hand out bills of money at random, I can see why they automatically categorize all of us westerners for our money. And even though I may not be wealthy back home, I am here, even with my meager earnings, because the quality of life I come from is so much higher than the norm in most of areas. Intellectually I know this, and I know that if I were them, I would probably do the same thing, but that hasn’t made it any easier to put my own feelings aside every time I am harassed.