Letters

Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

Home · Articles · News · Random Thoughts · The Faraway Land
. . . .

The Faraway Land

Robert Downes - November 22nd, 2007
The women of India are like wildflowers, each one dressed in colors to make a garden blush.
Canary and tangerine salwar suits; saris in coral, turquoise and royal purple, ribboned with silver and gold or spangled with sequins. Colors of sapphire, topaz and electric red... Most women here dress to kill, dripping with heavy, intricate jewelry of silver and gold and often wearing the tikka powder spot on their foreheads which marks them as Hindus.
And, it must be said, their hair is one of the wonders of this country, falling thick and lustrous in raven black tresses, always looking freshly washed.
I’m starting this column with a pleasant image of India because it has taken me a week to begin looking past the poverty and squalor to begin seeing this legendary land in a clearer light.
Nearly two weeks ago, my jet dropped out of the clouds in one of those nosedive landings Air India is famous for, hurtling toward a vast forest of rotting high-rise apartment towers, smeared in colors of tea and gray. I saw people scrambling on the streets below and then a landslide of slums tumbling for miles around the airport.
Welcome to Bombay, baby.
The first thing I saw as my taxi rounded the corner from the airport was a baby crawling just a foot from the curb of a five-lane highway where thousands of three-wheeled tuk-tuks and old beater Fiat taxis stampeded in a mad rush.
The baby’s family were chatting on the sidewalk, their ramshackle home built of odds and ends spilling to the edge of the curb. No one paid the baby a lick of attention as we sped past, but it looked happy enough, crawling around in the grime.
I practically jumped out of my skin on the hour-long ride into town. The sensory overload of sight, sounds and smells seemed almost too much to bear. The route looked like it had been through an aerial bombardment, with people lounging without a care in the filth and trash lining the tin roofs of their homes and the crumbling sidewalks. But these were some of the better homes, because soon there were warrens of ghastly slums with kids running naked through dirt lanes, and then the homeless street persons, propped up against walls with all their possessions spread out on the sidewalk. There looked to be thousands of these folks, bedding down for the night on the sticky, black sidewalks. I could see other toddlers playing in the street, jumping around amid the reckless traffic.
Outside my three-star hotel, in what I later learned was an iffy part of town, there were people sleeping on the street just outside the door. I saw a young mother, as thin as a beggar’s chicken, with the look of a kicked dog in her eyes. At her feet were her two daughters, the same ages as my granddaughters -- about one and three-years-old -- sleeping on rags and a mat of cardboard.
I spent three days in Bombay -- known today as Mumbai -- joining the throng of millions and marching for miles around town. I came across many other homeless street people and beggars, some of whom were still nursing the raw wounds of amputations. Ten rupees went to a leper with no fingers on the stubs of either hand -- not much, but enough to feed him for a day.
By the way, my apologies to Cairo for calling that pristine city “filthy” in a prior column, because that jewel of Egypt is impeccable compared to Bombay where there are no trash cans anywhere, not even in Colaba, the “classy” tourist part of town. People just toss litter wherever, creating a patina of grimy trash, excrement, urine and sticky stuff, cooking in the dense smog and 90 degree heat.
With 20 million people or more, Bombay is home to India’s biggest slum. Some of these folks are recruited into its notorious mafia -- the city is said to be packed with gangsters, pickpockets pimps, whores, religious fanatics and hitmen who will kill for $5 or less. I managed to dodge these characters, even though I was the only Westerner I saw for hours at a time, walking for miles around the city far outside the tourist zone and into the night.
Instead, I ran afoul of those I call the Helpful Harrys. “Sir, would you like to buy a toy whirlybird helicopter?” No thanks. “A spirograph to make lovely circles on paper, sir?” Nope. “Postcard?” No thanks. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like a postcard, sir?” And so on. One guy even tried to scoop wax out of my ears with a metal spoon as I was walking by, producing a loud squawk on my part.
Then too, in the hotels, there is a room boy, a laundry boy, luggage carriers, doormen and at least 10 waiters hovering over you. I don’t have the heart to tell them I can spoon my own rice onto my plate, or push the elevator button by myself. They’re dying for something to do.
Traffic? You bet. The driving technique here involves blasting the horn the entire way, whiplashing through a maelstrom of junky old buses, tuk-tuks, bicycles, motorcycles with whole families onboard, pedestrians and other taxis, while veering into oncoming traffic at breakneck speed every so often just for kicks. Potholes the size of bathtubs, roller-coaster pavement and rotting concrete come standard, along with a plastic Jesus on the dashboard, or Ganesh, the elephant-headed god of good luck.
But it’s not all filth and anarchy here. Beyond Bombay, the countryside opens up in a lush, lovely green of palm trees, rice fields and grazing cows, raising your spirits. Misty blue mountains rise like Hindu gods in the distant haze.
Slowly, I see past the blindfold of my Western viewpoint to discover a booming middle class in India, with many new cars, motorcycles and SUVs on the road. The boom is driven by the information technology and call center industries, with manufacturing also on the rise.
I’m 1,000 miles south of Bombay now, visiting towns with exotic names such as Ernakalum, Udhagamandalam, Mysore and Pondicherry. It’s much cleaner here and there are wild elephants by the road in the jungles of the Blue Mountains, along with water buffalo, monkeys and deer. And of course, each town has its contingent of goats and sacred cows, munching trash in the busy streets.
Most tourists visit northern India to see the Taj Mahal and such, but I’ve opted for the slower pace of the south for my long trip around the world. My itinerary will take me 1,500 miles in a circuit around the tip of India, wrapping up in the ultimate beach party hangout of Goa.
I imagine that each of you readers has an ultimate travel goal in mind for sometime in your lives. Mine has always been India. When I started traveling as a young man, India represented the end of the long backpackers’ trail through the world that started in London and Amsterdam, running through Istanbul, Afghanistan and this faraway land to Goa.
On the other hand, I’ve found that India is not the kind of place you visit for a “fun” vacation. It’s a bit more like an ordeal, with the heat, the crowds, the hustlers and “Delhi Belly” being the price you pay to see one of the strangest lands on earth. Is it worth it? I’ve got three more weeks to find out.
Namaste...

 
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