Today we left the ship to start a five day overland tour of India. I was amazed to see how far we would be travelling on the five days.
We would be getting off in Chennai and then meeting the ship in Mumbai several days from now. Sadly, Jim had a bit of a cold and, with the hot, humid conditions in India, he decided it was best if he didn’t go on the tour. Disappointing for both of us, but we’ve seen enough foreign hospitals in the last 18 months.
We arrived early in the morning. A burning wood smell was our first impression of India. We’ve been warned there would be lots of different smells!
•Chennai’s name was Madras until 1996 when all British names were changed. The population is 8 million. The British ruled for 300 years until 1947.
•India has three climates—hot, hotter, and hottest. This was the hottest and tourism would be slow now for the next three months.
•The main industry is Bollywood. India has the largest number of movies made in the world and, according to Arun, some of them are the most stupid.
•Unemployment rate is about 17%.
•India’s population is 1.2 billion—82% Hindu, 11% Muslim, 3% Christian, 3% Shiites
•The Hindu religion has 33 million gods/goddesses. It is the most democratic religion in that you follow your conscience. The drawback is the caste system, which Arun called India’s hidden apartheid.
•To be born a Hindu in India is to enter the caste system, one of the world's longest surviving forms of social stratification. It has been part of the Indian culture for the past 1,500 years and the caste system follows a basic precept: all men are created unequal. The ranks in Hindu society come from a legend in which the main groupings, or varnas, emerge from a primordial being. From the mouth come the Brahmans—the priests and teachers. From the arms come the Kshatriyas—the rulers and soldiers. From the thighs come the Vaisyas—merchants and traders. From the feet come the Sudras—labourers. Each varna in turn contains hundreds of hereditary castes and sub castes within their own pecking orders.
•A fifth group describes the people who are achuta, or untouchable. The primordial being does not claim them. Untouchables are outcasts: people considered too impure and polluted to rank as worthy beings. Prejudice defines their lives, particularly in the rural areas, where nearly three-quarters of India's people live. Untouchables are shunned, insulted, banned from temples and higher caste homes, made to eat and drink from separate utensils in public places, and, in extreme but not uncommon cases, are raped, burned, lynched, and gunned down.
•Mumbai has more millionaires and billionaires than NYC. You won’t see them with Rolls Royces or any outward sign of wealth. This might bring the evil eye. Instead, they put much of their money into gold.
•India is a democracy vs. China’s communist state. You would never see a movie like Slumdog Millionaire made in China. They would only show us what they wanted us to see.
•The extended family system has collapsed in India. Now old people go into old age homes. A major health issue is child diabetes, which can be attributed to the collapse of the family system. The older generation would have looked after the children, but now children are on their own after school.
•You can only have one car per family unless you can prove you have parking.
•Littering is a huge problem and is part of the caste system. People don’t think anything of littering. It is not their job to pick stuff up. The untouchables or the lowest class of caste, even if well paid, will not pick up garbage.
•You hardly see anyone smoking as there is a fine for lighting a cigarette in public.
Facts over...back to the photos. We passed by Marina Beach, which is the second longest beach in the world after Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro. The beach is on the Bay of Bengal which empties into the Indian Ocean.
We had a buffet dinner and got our marching orders for the morning.