Child labor also appears to be an issue (as I may have mentioned once before in my blog) as many children work to support their family. They most likely get paid minimally or, if working for the family business, may not get paid but just taken care of with food, rent, etc. The age of work starts young though, and many of the older generation have stories of the same. They speak of having begun work at age 10 even, wow! The government's policies are not nearly as stringent in terms of child labor laws as we have in the United States!
Bus and train selling also is quite an interesting phenomenon. People come onto the buses and trains to sell random items and the buses will even begin moving, allowing them to remain on for a bit to try to make a sale or better explain their product. When they finish, they just leisurely stroll of the bus as if the escapade had never happened.
Another terrible thing going on here is prostitution. I am unsure even as to if the women make any of the money that is paid, or if it goes all to the "pimps" or gentleman collecting the money and trying to sell the women. The government certainly knows what is going on and is doing nothing to stop it. I have thoughts that there may even be a connection to the government, as bribing is so common here...it may be that a portion (maybe majority even) of the money goes to the government in order for the officials not to shut the illegal practice down, and continue to let these people live on the minimal money they make. However, it seems that many guys (from speaking to locals) go to G.B. Road in Delhi to get their fix after a night out in Gurgaon. I visited Gurgaon and all of the dance clubs appeared to be in the upper floors of malls. When I arrived it was a bit early, but I wanted to have a look and ended up dancing in a club for a bit and had a nice time! The ratio was about 20:3 guys to girls, and there were essentially around 23 people there. This was the first time I was out in over a month, so I was certainly happy about it! I headed home early before the metro closed to limit my spending to 25 rupees, rather than shelling out anywhere between 400 and 750 of them (depending how unwilling the rickshaw drivers were going to be on bargaining).
I had visited this cafe called Madan Cafe right on the main road where we were staying and made a friend named Aditya. His suggestions about where to get the best milkshake in Delhi, how to get to Gurgaon, and other various things were actually not aimed at getting him money, and were spot on! This was truly special because most people here are trying to deceive me so when I met someone who was legitimate and could tell was honestly interested in being my friend, I was even more ecstatic. It is great to find great people, but when you have such a difficult time finding honesty in people, finding it means MORE. Aditya invited me to his relative's 25th Wedding Anniversary, and immediately I accepted the invitation. The party was CRAZY! They hoisted the married couple up to put the leighs around one another's head again (same as what takes place in the marriage ceremony) to remember how wonderful it was 25 years back and how it has been still for these past years! After that, we were all sprayed with champagne, and the dancing continued. The DJ was excellent, dishing out local tunes, tunes I was used to hearing, and interesting electronic fusions - I was LOVING it! Aditya and some cousins were on the floor "shimmying" like the belly dancers do back and forth to each other. Other dances called for a hokey pokey type motion shaking one leg in the air and waving one hand in the air, all of course with an Indian flavor to it all :) The food was out of this world. There was everything from finely prepared paneer curry to nan, to golab jamun, and even had appetizers of fried mushrooms, french fries, etc. This was perhaps the best food I have had to date in India. The next part of the night was the main reason I was so upset about forgetting my camera for the party. The elder men got up to do a dance (sort of like at a bar mitzvah when the older generation gets up to dance "Buttercup Baby" or something a bit dated). Aditya told me that this song meant "I just want two drops of the beer, pour the rest on me". The 4-6 Indian men on the dance floor followed the song's directions to the tee, as I witnessed a variety of circus tricks occurring in this magnanimous moment! One gentleman balanced (or attempted to) a glass of beer on his forehead before pouring it all over himself! Another slick guy got down and dirty on the floor, sliding around in the beer that had been spilled, while yet another covered the husband's eyes with Rupee bills, throwing them all around while the caterers fought over who would grab the large bills! I could not believe that I was witnessing what appeared to be some sort of strange bachelor party-type event occurring at an Indian family's celebration! After this, the leftovers of the cake were smeared on the faces of many and we continued to talk. I touched all of the older womens' feet and then touched my heart (after each time) as a symbol of respect, and got their blessings. This was so cool to be a part of this and I kept being told not to thank him as I consistently uttered the words, "Thank you" to Aditya. Having a real friend in any country is a special experience because they know where to take you. Having a real friend in INDIA is an even more rewarding experience because of how hard it is to find it (although you hear "Hello my friend" ALL DAY LONG ironically...)
Now, I have entered the "Pink City", as Jaipur is often called, in the land of rajas and palaces - Rathasthan. Jaipur is called the "Pink City" due to the color of many of the buildings, and the glow it gives off into the night sky! I walked around, got some chai and saw the Jawa Mahal, the Wind Palace! This place is unbelievably cool, designed like a bee's hive with tons of windows nestled snugly into the honeycomb! Women would look out of these windows back in India's past I was told... Around this place were many shops with "smart" Indian salesman. They spoke great English, and many even speak SPANISH here too! I have to use Portuguese if I want them to leave me alone it appears...anywho they were friendly and interested in chatting and not rushing me into a sale. So, I actually looked in their shops and told them I would recommend them to someone looking for their goods - much better marketing/selling strategy than "Hello friend, have a look...". Before this, I went to the city palace, but didn't enter because I don't want to be endlessly spending on tourist complexes and things - I am picking and choosing! Seeing the outside was enough for me, it looked quite regal! Actually, the last currently planned tourist excursion will be doing a backwaters tour in Kerala on a cool boat!
Perhaps most exciting is that I will be doing the Vipasanna course here, tomorrow!! So, expect not to hear from me from December 1-11 as I will be following a course where silence is observed and meditation is practiced throughout the day for 10 hours a day! It will certainly be one of the hardest experiences I have ever had and I am nervous. I am eager and anxious, yet ready to tackle this immense challenge! I will write more about the experience when I complete it and can once again do other things aside from just thinking.