Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Social and political observations

One of the things that surprised me the first morning here in Delhi was a full page ad in The Times of India extolling the virtues of daughters and featuring a (presumably famous) man in a smiling portrait with his daughter. India is really struggling with unbalance between male and female birthrates, especially with the spread of in vitro testing which leads to abortions of female foetuses. Legal prohibitions against such infanticide haven't worked, so the  government is taking an active role through the media.   Later we saw a couple of different billboards inveighing against female foeticide and against dowries. The crippling cost of dowries is considered a factor in the, shall we say, lack of enthusiasm for daughters.

Our guide, Sanjiv, seemed to have an enlightened view of women. He had eschewed an arranged marriage, and married 'for love' someone of a lower caste (he is a Brahmin), not popular with either family, although they were accepted. He went on to point out that he'd not only received no dowry but had invested in his wife's education as an accountant. Though she now works at Ernst & Young, she does love her electronic toys and he sees little prospect of earning back a (financial) return on that investment, let alone the value of a dowry, he said tongue in cheek.

Another common topic with our guides has been the prevalence of corruption and the venality of politicians. Whenever we see a piece of crumbling infrastructure, the guide will explain the area is prosperous enough but that work is poorly done because of politicians lining their pockets. As we drive past parliament and the enormous impressive buildings left from the days of the British, someone might suggest we look out for monkeys - the ones who work there.

Our Delhi guide Sanjiv had been among the thousands who had protested corruption at the inspiration of a man who went on a hunger strike (name escapes me). He attributed the protest and its peaceful nature to the influence of Gandhi, which he says is still deeply felt here. We've seen several statues of Gandhi as we've been driving, all hung with garlands, since the national holiday celebrating his birthday has just passed.

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