Your health and safety is our main concern…

8 Oct

…is not a phrase that I have heard uttered anywhere in India.  I don’t even feel that the word safety is in the collective psyche of the country. In fact it is quite the opposite.  Busses are at a level of disrepair that borders on deadly.  Sumos (jeeps) from Siliguri to Darjeeling are riding on tires that are cracking and bald- I mean bald, as in NO TREAD left on the tire.  Power poles are a jumble of live wires feeding buildings in every direction. Workers don’t wear protective equipment when working with fire or caustic chemicals.  It is pretty amazing.

Right below our hotel room, the city- or some other municipal entity- has decided that the path that runs along Nerhu Road is in need of resurfacing.  Starting a few days ago, men started breaking the old asphalt- BY HAND and refilling sections with rock that they crushed themselves- BY HAND. Last night, two huge bonfires were lit near the hotel (we thought it might have been some sort of celebration, our hotel manager let us know that it was to heat up the tar for the repaving) – fueled by large timbers and rubber tires, yes, rubber tires!  The smell is awful and totally caustic, it kind of eats away at your lungs little by little.  These fires have been burning through the night and all of today.  Nevermind the fact that there are three hotels in this vicinity as well as four or five restaurants.

Amazingly, locals don’t seem to even notice the smell or the smoke, or the possibility that they might get sick from breathing these fumes.  They are just used to things being done in this way and a fire made of burning tires doesn’t even phase them.

It’s hard to fathom how things are done here when you are living by western standards, but all of those standards need to be thrown out the window, you’re in India and this is the way it is done- love it or leave it.  When it comes down to it, I’m beginning to love it.

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One Response to “Your health and safety is our main concern…”

  1. Melina December 21, 2007 at 3:19 am #

    very interesting. i’m adding in RSS Reader

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