Delhi, India A Heartfelt Message of Cultural Understanding and Oneness

I’m coming up on two weeks of sitting around doing nothing. The first week in Bangkok was well-documented. After that, on the 11th, I was supposed to meet up with my cousin Tom in Delhi. That didn’t work out as planned.

I’m gonna make a long story short here for a number of reasons. After arriving in India and finding out I wasn’t going to be there for a while, Tom decided to head up to Kashmir by himself. I won’t go into the circumstances, I’ll just say that the prudence of the excursion was debatable. Anyone who wants to know more can go check the travel warnings from the U.S. State Department.

I read up on the background behind the India-Pakistan conflict over Kashmir. It goes back to the final days of the Raj when the British separated the Muslims from the non-Muslims, drew some arbitrary borders, then took off. Each state in the region was allowed to choose for itself which way to go. For most states it was an easy decision, but the indecisive maharaja of Kashmir had a more difficult time. The problem was that he himself was Hindu, but the majority of his population was Muslim. By the time he finally made the decision to stay in India rather than join Pakistan, the armies were already marching and these things, once they get started, are very difficult to stop.

Anyway, I’m in Delhi now waiting for Tom to get back. I checked in at the same hotel he was staying at a few days prior. We’re in sporadic email contact. He should be returning later today.

“Tout” isn’t a word I was familiar with before coming here. It means “con artist.” The book says they’re everywhere, but to be honest, I haven’t encountered a single one. Instead I keep meeting these guys who wait outside my hotel and approach me as I leave. I know they’re not touts, cause the first thing they do is warn me to watch out for touts. They explain that they like foreigners and want to practice their english and don’t want any money. They follow me for several blocks, showing me their credentials as honest, gainfully employed citizens and directing me to the nearest tourist office where I can pick up a free map and brochures. Anyway, these guys must have scared all the touts away, cause I can’t find them anywhere.

Delhi is such a friendly city.

It’s also very poor. The overcrowding and squalor is worse than I’ve ever seen. And this is a city whose population is growing by 50 people an hour, so it’s not getting any better. Nothing is getting better.

Pollution is a serious problem. Breathing street air in Delhi is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day (Attention Smokers: Move to Delhi. Think of the savings!). Everything is tinted an orangey-brown dirt color; the streets, the buildings, the cars, the sky – on some days you can look directly into the sun without even squinting.

But the sanitation problem is what gets me the most. People dump their garbage out in the middle of the street. It’s everywhere. It’s in everything. It’s on everything. Absolutely nothing is clean. I’m not a germ freak, and I think that we in the west often go overboard in our fear of bacteria. There is an acceptable level of filth, but this isn’t it.

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Too late.

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Then there are the cows. This one is hard to believe, so I got lots of photographic evidence.

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Cows are sacred in the Hindu religion, which means they get to go wherever they want and do whatever they please. They wander into the shops, they graze on the garbage, they shit all over the street, and no one would ever dream of doing anything about it. A lot of the cows are clearly diseased, shaking uncontrollably with huge, tumorous growths along their bodies, but God has literally forbidden anyone from taking action.

India Gate. Big draw here in Delhi. People are always flocking to see “The Gate,” as they call it. Actually they’re not. And I don’t know why they call it a gate. It looks like an arch to me. But what do I know?

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Looking for a tourist office? Here’s a few.

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One thing I noticed after a few days of walking: there are many regions of the city where there are absolutely no women present. The places are crowded, guys are everywhere, but there isn’t a woman to be seen in any direction.

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It’s striking when you realize it. There’s obviously some major social stratification going on. I get the impression that women are viewed as an unfortunate side effect of the reproductive process.

This is the kind of pleasant, inviting alleyway I often found myself walking down. Friendly, welcoming faces everywhere.

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I went through the guide book and crossed off all the mosques and temples. It’s always the same deal and it’s too hot for that. Most of the museums didn’t interest me. One of my few excursions was to a place called Jantar Mantar. Mostly I just liked the name, but the other interesting thing is that it’s a park filled with giant, three hundred year old astronomical measuring devices.

This one is called Samrat-Yantra.

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It’s an equinoctial dial consisting of a triangular gnomon with the hypotenuse parallel to the Earth’s axis. Duh!

It was used to measure the time of day, correct to half a second.

Here are some pictures that would’ve gotten me an A in my high school photography class.

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Here’s one that wouldn’t have.

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And here’s a random kid who was standing around and wanted his picture taken.

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So that was about it for me and going outside. Delhi wore me down. I declared defeat. I’ve spent the last few days holed up in my hotel room waiting for Tom.

Power is intermittent. It’s a city-wide problem. My room has electricity for maybe half of each day. They have a gas generator that they turn on from time to time, but it gives out after not too long. The heat gets pretty unbearable in the afternoon. Delhi is in the middle of a massive heatwave, so it can get up to 120. The air conditioner would be a lot more useful if I had windows that close.

They put on a street festival the other night and held a concert right outside my bathroom window — the one that doesn’t close. It started at 8pm and went on until dawn. It sounded like cats being murdered. They supplied power to the event by diverting it from the entire neighborhood. This left me and, I would imagine, thousands of other people, lying awake in pools of sweat – which was okay, cause we had eleven hours of ear-splitting tone deaf chanting to keep us company.

I’ve started my malaria medication. It’s that heavy-duty stuff called Larium. I only need to take one pill a week, but they kind of suggest that you leave the next day open for side effects. Here is the list of warnings from the packaging:

"Larium may cause dizziness, fainting, headaches, irregular heartbeat, numbness of the hands and feet, aches, muscle weakness, upset stomach including nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, fever, chills, skin rash, drowsiness, a constant buzzing noise, hearing loss, depression, confusion, seizures, and possibly dementia."

…this is the part where I usually confess to making some of that up, but I didn’t. It’s all right there on the little sheet.

It actually says this:

“If you are taking Larium for the treatment of malaria, you may not be able to distinguish between the side effects of the drug and the disease itself.”

It seems to me that Larium doesn’t treat malaria so much as it conceals it.

The day after I took the first dose didn’t go so well. It coincided with the fact that I hadn’t really eaten in a long time. I swore off meat while I’m in India to avoid dysentery, and I’m having trouble finding clean meals with enough nutrition to keep me going. And because of the smell, I’m having trouble finding the appetite to finish them. When I realized how run down I was, I found the nearest food stall and sat down. While waiting for my food, I fell back and passed out.

No one noticed. I don’t know how long I was lying there, but I think it was only a few seconds. When I woke up, I was cold, sweaty, and too weak to stand. I grabbed the waiter guy and told him I needed whatever food he could give me immediately. He didn’t speak English, but he understood the international language of I’m-about-to-throw-up-on-you and grabbed me some papadums. I forced myself to eat a lot and eventually got my act together.

On my way back, I was grabbed by a guy who identified me as American. He told me he was going to Massachusetts and he wanted me to come back to his place and show him where it is on a map. Situations like this are fairly constant here, but I kind of snapped on that one in particular. He desperately wanted me to come with him, and even though it was obviously some ridiculous scam, I felt terrible for flatly denying such an ostensibly simple request.

“No, I’m not going to offer you the uncommon courtesy of going to your house and showing you where Massachusetts is on a map. While it would not inconvenience me greatly, it would be silly to treat you with any degree of trust or decency. Sorry, that’s just how it is.”

I don’t like the way it makes me feel to be like that. It’s callous and mean.

Another issue I’m handling with confused emotions is the many horribly disfigured people begging for money on the street. I know it makes no rational sense, but I feel angry at them. I want to yell at the lepers with stumps for arms and feet. It’s not bec ause they’re pestering me or anything – it’s because it didn’t have to happen. It’s because they didn’t know any better than to live in conditions where diseases fester, so they have to carry on in these unfathomably miserable circumstances. I don’t understand why I have that reaction. It’s just how I feel.

I read in the newspaper about an eight-year-old child who was brought to the hospital because he was shitting live insects. Thought that was worth mentioning.

64 Responses to Delhi, India A Heartfelt Message of Cultural Understanding and Oneness

  1. Jerod

    Don’t listen to what the other guy said. It is perfectly valid to criticize other cultures — just look at how the ENTIRE world criticizes America. So stick it to em and keep tellin it like it is!

  2. RJR

    i’m an american currently living in mumbai for the past year and just got back from a quick trip to delhi. i would agree with just about everything he said: the power there is very sporatic, too much garbage and pollution and animal crap everywhere. he forgot to mention the open sewers that make the yearly flooding extra fun. but while i was in delhi, i thought the garbage and pollution was actually a lot less than where i’m staying, so for people wanting more of that, come out to mumbai for a vacation. and to the indian who didn’t like his criticism, suck it up. 1st thing anyone does when they go to a new country is criticize the culture, consciously or not. there are tons of indians who go to the states and complain about how loose or slutty they think our women are. so don’t complain just because he happened to say something you didn’t like about the country you’re from, especially since he was basically only saying what he saw. on a bus ride home from my work here, i can always tell where i am by the smells outside. if you don’t think garbage or pollution is a problem in inda, then you don’t have eyes or a nose. and if you want to talk about disregarding a culture, why is it that almost anywhere i go here thats big, i get charged way way more than indians? elephanta island in mumbai – 10 rupees for locals, 250 for me. museum – 10 for locals, 300 for me. the taj mahal – 20 for locals, 750 for me. and thats not even mentioning the general overcharging thats custom for anything i want to buy or the rics i take simply because i’m white. i won’t even go into the massive lying i have to deal with. that sounds more racist to me than anything he said

  3. Willie

    I do agree with everything Matt said , I come from Jordan and i lived in India (Jaipur – Rajasthan) for 4 years, unfortunately i was sent there in a cultural exchange program between Jordan and India, lemme tell u about my experience in India:

    Indians are cheap & bad liers who think that everyone else in the world is a millionair and its thier duty to play every trick in the book to get some money out of you (there are NO exceptions to the rule , from the Maharaja to the un-touchables) i had to learn Hindi to make it a little affordable because if you’re in the vegetables market and asked about the price of a killo of tomato in english , the shop owner would think ,, ah huh ,, 50 rupees , but if you asked him in hindi he would say 5 rupees.

    I never went to a restaurant during my stay in India and i have cooked my food on my own in a Villa i rented after staying at campus for one night only.

    I have toured a whole lot in India and its the same all over, Its a dirty country & inhibited by nosey people.

  4. Iz

    I have also been in india and I’d like to say that everything here about India is mostly exact, power cuts, scammers, smell, overcharging strangers, and more but that’s only one face of India, and India has many faces. you can meet friendly, sharing, open minded, funny people in India. About the x10 ratio on the price, India is all about bargaining and if you’re good at it you can obtain indian prices, all you have to know is what the price is. If you need a hint ask israelis they usually know.
    I guess what I wanna say is “all generalizations are bad, including this one”

  5. sam

    matt , u are a sad loser who obviously thinks the usa and the west descended from the bowels of christ , your total lack of respect for anything unwestern and different shows that you lead a very unfortunately sad life , to compare gandhi one of the greatest apstles of pace to hitler a mass murderer also shows your mental state , u need to see a psychiatrist , which im sure u are , since almost all americans seem to have one.

  6. Varun D

    Wohoo mat! Amazing stuff! I read the whole thing and I gotta tell you that this one one hell of a travel!

    Im from India too but never their long enuf to be one. Anyway its a mixed country, all the experiences and the bad times. The good times too with occational “wow” and “ooh”. It has got the oldest cultures in the world starting about 3500 BC. And as a side note the reason COWS are considered sacred is due to their valuability. They were used i agriculture, milking, the shit as firewood! All this usefulness makes it sacred. But as we know people can be blind to the facts, there is no use now, they shud change some of it.

    Anyway keep up the good work. I like your way of describing openly but u shud see some mordern places like banglore too. Ive never visit that place but its called the silicon valley of India!

    Regards

  7. Varun D

    Wohoo mat! Amazing stuff! I read the whole thing and I gotta tell you that this one one hell of a travel!

    Im from India too but never their long enuf to be one. Anyway its a mixed country, all the experiences and the bad times. The good times too with occational “wow” and “ooh”. It has got the oldest cultures in the world starting about 3500 BC. And as a side note the reason COWS are considered sacred is due to their valuability. They were used i agriculture, milking, the shit as firewood! All this usefulness makes it sacred. But as we know people can be blind to the facts, there is no use now, they shud change some of it.

    Anyway keep up the good work. I like your way of describing openly but u shud see some mordern places like banglore too. Ive never visit that place but its called the silicon valley of India!

    Regards

  8. Naval Sharma

    MAtt..u sucks..

    My advise would be tht u se a pychatrist.

    For me India is the best counytry in world..better than US of A.. US sucks.. u gys have no moral values..Females thr sleep with anyone.. no respect for elders..
    n u say India stinks?? Irony Huh

  9. Kyal

    Hey Matt, as an Aussie :-) id just thought id drop in and pick on those ediyotic people who despite half ther names being some kind of fruit critisize someones view on a ‘counytry’ i think they should be more focused on tryin not to name ther childeren after some kind of citrius. i will be traveling to india mid next year so i thank you for the insight il be shure to wear shoes with lots of grip. but you haveto admit that eventho that gahndi letter was gold tis a bit ifi to post sumtin like that and not cop a little flak (i loved it)

    Cheers

    Kyal

  10. Dear Matt,
    I am an Indian, I do agree with a lot of your statements. There are a lot of thing you should change in India, cleaning the place is definitely one of them. But you should consider the fact that India is a WAY WAY older country then US. I currently live in the US.
    When you are already about 5000 years old, its hards for you to change things. US being a 500 year old country finds it far easier to change things. India has a 1 billion population, there are not many things that you and I can do to change things around. There is corruption starting from the top to the bottom. But, as Indians, I think we are at fault for not maintaining our motherland and its culture. I hope you will come to the south sometime and see the difference. Its a far better place with regards to culture. We don’t have the widow killing and the caste system :) I remember holding my servants daughter and taking her for a stroll with no one shouting at me.
    If you feel you need to go to the market place and shout sense into people there, please do. I dont believe that works. I have tried it :) You will perhaps be beaten up and stamped on for 5 minutes like i was. It sometimes hurts to try.
    I enjoyed the video. I hope you will keep us posted with your latest adventures. And sorry about all the corpses in Varanasi, and the bad smell in most places. Give us 20 more years, I promise things will change!

  11. owl

    matt wrote what he saw.
    c’mon guys, whats to cringe about?
    americans are funny and have their share of blips like we do.
    ‘indian living in america’

  12. Alex

    will you people bashing matt please shut the fuck up for a change? the truth is that these things DO happen in india. i’m sure he doesn’t deny that there are nice people in any country you visit…

  13. Americanbadass

    Matt, don’t listen to these people telling you that you are wrong, you went there and you wrote about what you experienced, it’s not like you are saying this out of nothing.

  14. Joydeep

    wow..this blog has made me realize how little foreigners actually care about others cultures and values…thats maybe because America doesnt have a culture of its own….oh wait…did that hurt?….

    There are tons and tons of things in India that are far superior than the pictures you have posted. It deeply saddens me to see that westerners only have a bleak and an inferior outlook towards eastern countries. I agree, India is poor….but we dont go around bullying other people to change their governements and spendng zillions of dollars on a war that has only costed the US treasury and the American people. Yes, India is dirty, but there is a good reason behind it. Yes, India is populated and poverty lingers in every street, but India has never been as affluent and lucky as America. We as Indians are rising and shinning, no matter what people say today….its the fact, a fact that people cannot deny..and the ones who do…ignorance is indeed blissful

  15. arnab pal

    hey matt,
    u went to delhi..and missed out..red fort….oh…might be u should make another trip…and did u know taj mahal..is 2 hrs drive from delhi…
    cheers…

  16. Rebecca

    “To review: Shit is for flushing, cows are for eating, left hands are for anything but wiping your ass, and widows are for not setting on fire.”

    Matt, you are hilarious! I’ve been to India and everything you have said is true. But some cities in India are becoming better than some cities in the US. And give them some time, I think countries all over the world are developing much faster than we think!!

    Enjoy your journey!

  17. PM

    listen ppl…i am a student i nindia and i feel tht da pic presented by matt is partially true…there r potholes in every road…even in american or european roads but u should see da way india is developing 2day…americana r closing in on us..chinese r not any more agressive…indians r becoming a force 2 recon with and moreover it seems india will a veto power soon…….would there be a silicon valley without the IITians stuffed there? would there be a hotmail without sabeer bhatia…..trust me ppl we require each other 2 survive and india is a part of da cycle

  18. Amita

    hey Matt! I read all your entries regarding your visit to India and I gotta admit that they are absolutely unique. (funny as well!):P
    Regarding the problems in india that you mentioned, well there are lots of ways of preventing them but right now things have gone to such a limit that its hard to implement any changes. First of all the main problem in India is extreme population growth, which makes it harder for everyone in the country. I mean hardly any western country has its population close to india’s and so no wonder its cleaner there. More ppl–More rubbish–less resources to process them.

    Well things are certainly out of hand in urban areas. And some one mentioned about racisim in the comments below–well yes i do agree that a white man/woman have to pay more price just because they have a fair skin tone–but thinking it from the indian people’s point of view–as you mentioned there is lot of poverty which i am not going to neglect coz its true. (and again the main reason behind it is Population!)so when these people see someone white they usually tend to think,” ofcourse since this person is here it mean he must have a lot of money to roam around the world–soo why not get some from him that way atleast i will have food for 2 weeks to go!” and also regarding the intimate questions:- well this is a well known fact around that most of the english movies are watched just for the intimate scenes around the world–so the situation is same in india as well- influence of western culture through these music videos and movies.
    anyways no matter how much we critise any country, its clear that NO country is extremely perfect, they all have their own problems and concerns to deal with!

    Well I just wanted to give my 2 cents since we are on this topic anyways. btw cool videos and u certainly are a lucky guy–u get to travel the globe!! it cant get any cooler than this 😀 Gud job! and its ok..you might have offended people here but yup that was your opinion and you certainly have a right to say it in public.

    Anyways. gud luck for your future projects. Take care! :)

  19. Beula

    Where did you get the letter from Gandhi to Hitler??? Did you make that up? I am trying to find it in his collection of letters online. I am still trying to figure out if the whole urination bit was Gandhi’s form of insulting Hitler about something …. That was one retarded piece of letter, and its unfortunate you couldn’t see or find any other letter after making it to the musuem! LOL

    While what you mentioned is true, there is a lot more to India than what you have described. I am an Indian by blood but considered a Non-residential indian, since I don’t live there – and every time I visit India, the rickshaw people or other vendors try to charge me a higher price because they know I am not a local – so you can’t say they are bunch of crooks and what not! These guys don’t have a lot of money, and one of the reasons why India is in the front line of globalization today is because of the rising middle class – but at the same time the poverty isn’t falling either – the gap between the two is widening, which ofcourse is not comforting.

    Besides the many potholes on the street, the cows, poverty and pollution – India is a culturally diverse nation. There are lot more to explore and see than what you experienced. Of course there are many touristic destinations spread between North to South and East to West – but the collectivist culture, the people and its food makes that country unique.

    I bet if you visited certain parts of the US, you will get a similar view here as well. Like someone mentioned in their response, India is among one of the oldest civilizations – the US on the other hand is much younger and there was a lot more room for change from the beginning … I think if we expect life to be the exact same no matter which country we are in, we will NEVER get to enjoy life! Some diversity (in any form) is important ….

    Maybe when you go on your next trip to any country, you should learn and do some research about the area and the surrounding area instead of blinding showing up and shocking yourself and others as well! You might be doing this already, but it doesn’t seem to help much …. try to connect with a local who knows english for a good perspective!

  20. Sheetal

    Matt,
    I have no idea what you wrote about in that long blog.. Seems you had a great exp every time you visit around the world.. Iam sure you might find some places very dirty, absurd and may be hell to live in, but sure there are so many things within ur own birth place u think you can change or make diff too?? May be you dont want to, may be your way of doing things are so diff that no ones understand other than u or.. May be ppl in US are over matured not to take any crap from you… “Everybody wants to rule the world”….Well the letter from Gandhi that u have copied from the museum doesnt give the right pic of Gandhi..its diff for ppl to understand what kind of a person he was.. You should watch a hindi movie “Lagay raho munna bhai” thats a great movie that will tell you who Ghandhi was.. He can never be Sarcastic, ever..Just a last question … Where do you get your patience from???

  21. usha

    Hi, a comment from an Indian from India.

    I came here from your video Dancing 2008.

    India is diverse..Agree that you met a particularly (obnoxious) stereotype in Vishal..at the same time, you met another stereotype in the urban, western influenced young couple you met at Delhi(whom you seemed to approve of mildly!)..if you kept delving, you would meet many many other kinds of people here as in any other country..

    parallely, it also seems to me that you represent one (stereotypical) tourist ..who mostly sees what is wrong (or am I misreading your sense of humour..that could be a cultural thing too) .. there are others who choose to appreciate what is exciting and different ..

    but as somebody said above, everybody judges/criticizes other cultures through their own tinted glasses..i do that too when i travel in the US! though the Indian sense of politeness (to our hosts) does not allow us to be so open about what we don’t like!

  22. Indian

    I am an Indian, and I have been there almost all my life. I have also traveled around India and around the world extensively.

    I completely agree with what Matt has said, and his account of the trip is absolutely true. I am quite sure there are many who will hate me for this, but there is no point suppressing the facts. You can hate it but you cant run from facing the reality. But things have improved considerably over the past years, and continues to improve at a very fast rate.

  23. ZSL

    Matt,

    While I really liked the video you have shot on your travels, your blog on India made me want to add my two bits.

    You say a 110 rupees is a lot in India. Yes it is. For the absolutely poor, it is a lot. for the middle class man its not too much.
    When I went to Los Angeles as a student on a shoe-string budget, I stayed in a motel that charged $25 for a room. This was in 2001 and that motel was absolute crap. It had homeless guys sleeping in the corridor. The bathroom did not have soap. The sheets were stained. It was terrible.
    I returned to L.A. in 2005. This time, I was in a whole different place in my life. I stayed at the W hotel for two weeks at $280 a room night, before moving in to my $3500 a month one bedroom home in Hollywood Hills.

    $25 in India translates to appx 1200 Rupees. For 1200 rupees you could still get better value for your money than you would get for $25 in the US. But most of you’ll come to India and want to spend like 2 dollars for a room and then bitch about the lack of electricity and water etc and the food and touts outside your hotel. Well, heres a solution for you. Don’t go live in the slum.

    Who asks you to go stay in those hotels? And this not just with you, Its with most travel blogs I read about India. Why the fuck would you go stay in a shit hole to begin with.

    You say you do not get clean food or were worried about food borne diseases. Well, in the US when you go to a Mac Donalds you would pay atleast 5 dollars for a combo meal, and that is the very worst fast food. A decent restaurant lunch special would come to around 10$. That is 400 hundred rupees and for that amount you can get some good food in a three star restaurant in Mumbai for one person.
    But if you insist on spending only 50 rupees per meal at some cheap roadside restaurant….well, what do you expect?

    Yes, India is cheap and can offer good value for money. But there is a limit one should push with the stinginess.

    As for the Filth and garbage in India. You are bang on. I hate the filth and garbage on the roads too.

  24. some 3rd worldian.

    i am so going to publicize that fake letter you wrote from gandhi to hitler, you little child.

  25. obnoxious

    Lol. sad fuck. to think i actually liked your video! anyways douche you still went back to India after such an experience. hypocrite.

  26. Peter

    Okay, so that Gandhi letter was too ridiculous for me to buy at face value. Good thing I looked it up. I’m guessing you made that entire letter up? That is just plain retarded. Wow.

    As for the rest of your post. Wow. What ever happened to civility? 1) Bride burning is not an Indian institution; 2) Cows are not “sacred” in Hinduism, and Hindus are free to do what they please – Hinduism is supposed to be viewed as a set of guidelines for a lifestyle, not a set of rigid, inflexible rules like you have, with your expansive knowledge of Hinduism, made it out to be; 3) try increasing the population density of the United States to what it is in India, and see how many beggars you see then; 4) read up on your history. That’s all I can say. If you knew the history of Ancient India and its splendor, and its subsequent raping via the colonialist system, perhaps you would approach this differently.

    All I can say is, wow. You racist fool.

  27. sam

    Wow…just. wow. You know, I have to say I loved your video and the spirit I saw in it. But I see none of that here. Disfigured people? Poverty? Filth? Crazy customs? Check. India has all kinds of problems. Yes, stuff doesn’t work the way you’d expect things to in a country like America. Logic and common notions of right and wrong in the US and the west, don’t necessarily mean the same thing in India. I’m a left handed Indian, and the reason people use their left hands to wash their butts, is cause its considered cleaner than using your right hand which you use to eat. You know what I did? I used my frickin brain and used my right hand. And if you think that’s dirty, I think a case could be made for how dirty it is to use a toilet paper instead of cleaning up with water and soap. This is just one of many instances of idiotic stuff you’ve chosen to write about. What makes me so sad, is someone who has the opportunity and money and resources to travel the world, chooses to look at every experience through the lens of American life. Im sorry what did you expect? A strip mall and a starbucks drive through? Stay at home. Did you try to understand why there is poverty? why there is bureaucracy? Why there is filth and garbage and why people do the things they do? Did you read a single history book or try to understand how vastly different it is from your culture, how old it is and how impossibly challenging it is to keep the country together against these incredible odds? Id like to dump hundreds of millions of refugees from a mass exodus into America, a British government system riddled with bureaucracy, millions of uneducated people, hundreds of completely different languages and cultures with different needs, and see how the country is doing in 50 years. Heck, y’all had a hard time rescuing folks from Katrina.

    In the end, my point is…I wish you had spent at least a little time talking about the things you liked. But it appears travelling all over the world hasn’t given you an iota of perspective, and you couldn’t help but focus on how terrible your experience was. In fact, your inability to find a decent meal in Delhi displays your rather shocking ineptitude at travelling. I mean really, anyone who has been to Delhi or any Indian city can get a good, cheap, clean and extremely healthy meal. You swore off meat and you couldn’t get enough nutrition? I feel pity for you. What would you do without protein? I guess Indians must have a special organ that generates protein on its own to survive. Or maybe thats why they are so hideously disfigured? oh and by the way, we don’t all think cows are sacred thank you. But thanks for the tip about bride burning, we don’t know what we would have done without that piece of insight.

    Reading this post makes me feel like all you did was focus on how appalling your experience was and even if you did have some horrible moments…it makes me sad that you didn’t take the time to appreciate the countries wonders. And let me tell you, there are quite a few. Your opportunity to travel the world has been wasted in my opinion. You don’t deserve it.

  28. monty

    the video starts in india. the only place where matt changes his style of dancing is in gurgaon. the lyrics of the song are from gitanjali written by tagore, an indian.

    how much of more american hypocrisy can we take??

  29. random_stranger

    Well well, after seeing the video, i was impressed, i thought here we have a traveler who is actually trying to understand the people from all over the world as one- divided only by customs, faith and circumstances. but boy oh boy, reading your article gave me a nauseating feeling.. you are walking on the borderline of racism. i felt like i read a near racist rant devoid of a basic understanding of poverty, culture, faith and 1000 years of history. I have to say you are disappointing.

  30. random_stranger

    Well well, after seeing the video, i was impressed, i thought here we have a traveler who is actually trying to understand the people from all over the world as one- divided only by customs, faith and circumstances. but boy oh boy, reading your article gave me a nauseating feeling.. you are walking on the borderline of racism. i felt like i read a near racist rant devoid of a basic understanding of poverty, culture, faith and 1000 years of history. I have to say you are disappointing.

  31. random_stranger

    Well well, after seeing the video, i was impressed, i thought here we have a traveler who is actually trying to understand the people from all over the world as one- divided only by customs, faith and circumstances. but boy oh boy, reading your article gave me a nauseating feeling.. you are walking on the borderline of racism. i felt like i read a near racist rant devoid of a basic understanding of poverty, culture, faith and 1000 years of history. I have to say you are disappointing.

  32. P. Patel

    Having grown up in the west and visted India a few times, I would have to agree with many of the things you had discussed, but I find your experiences have been more drastic and extreme than mine had. I haven’t been to Dehli or Calcutta though. What I had come to know is the cows don’t just randomly roam the streets, most of them are actually owned by people. The owners let them loose every morning and they return back home on their own every night. I know there isn’t exactly cooked in the most sanitary conditions, but I’d eaten out on various occasions and never once had I gotten sick from it. That is not to say that it isn’t possible. India is the way it is due to years of poverty and being under various ruling powers and such. It’s on the path to bettering itself but the extent of it’s poverty and the high population makes it a slow and gruelling process. It’s unfair to compare it to a western nation. So, although what you have written is true for the most part, that is not India in its entirety. There is much more it has to offer, and I’d even noticed hints of appreciation from you every once in a while.

  33. Adi

    Matt
    Its really commendable for a foreigner to venture alone in India. Hats off for that. I am an Indian studying in the US, and I invited a couple of my ‘white’ friends for a trip back in India. I myself had a bad time controlling people around them, coz somehow foreigners ARE novelty for Indians. Is that wrong? And isn’t that much better than some guy who serves at taco bell calling me a ‘brown loser’? I am disappointed how you failed to understand the respect Indians have for other cultures, and how little tolerance ‘certain’ americans have for other people. I just wish you could have seen more positives in India rather than making it a crib blog. I respect your perspective, but I strongly disagree with it at the same time :). Its like me coming to the US, not mentioning about the great roads, good universities and so many other things…and then just talking about muggins, unwed teenagers and crack addicts.

  34. Sudhir

    The Gate (or Arch as you put it), is NOT DELHI Gate. It’s INDIA Gate. It’s a monumental tribute as a mark of respect to all soldiers of India who died in various Wars dating back to WW-I. Not sure if anybody informed you this there.
    No wonder people flock over there to see all those names inscribed on the Gate.

  35. Rashmi

    Hi Matt,

    Awesome!. I came across your video on youtube. And no guesses, I was jealous. I would love to do what you do!. I searched on you and got to your website, I’m from India (now in the states) and naturally was drawn towards what you had to say about India. Its sad, and I say this rather grudgingly- that most (maybe all) of what you say is true. India is dirty,polluted- has a bunch of people who are lie, fleece you (more so if you are white),we do lack a sense of responsibility. I am not very proud of this- but I am very proud of the people who are warm hearted,open minded, our culture, our tolerance(to other cultures and religions),our heritage and the more than 100 languages, out cuisine (yum yum), our art (thought maybe sadly needing some encouragement). Some of us are educated, believe that India has a lot to improve and is on her way there- and that we can take some good pointers from the developed countries (including the states). I read some of the comments above, some of them come back and talk about the US and the lack of morals. For me thats being defensive, I would rather prefer Indians (including me) to take responsibility for the dirtiness,filth and pollution and do something about it and let the developed countries (US included) worry about their lack of morality (if any). But yes, American’s if you didn’t know already America is not the world, so don’t go to other countries looking for it. We have different issues and problems to address- and guess it up to us to address them with all the limitations we have.

  36. saneguy

    What angers me is that you hate people and cultures not their situation. Before you wrote about the people of India and their culture you should have tried to understand their situation. 4 times the population of US living in 1/3 of the area. A majority of them earn less than a dollar a day and have never had any access to education, access to safe drinking water or basic sanitation. Can you imagine that? I don’t think so because you are just as ignorant as most Americans are.

    It would have done you more credit if you had tried to understand the real reasons behind the squalor you see in India.

    I am sad that people think you are some sort of a saint for doing the 2008 Dancing Video trying to bring humanity together. But you are just another commercial actor who got lucky. I hope people also read your blog to understand your real nature.

  37. Hi Matt,

    I saw your video ‘Dancing 2008’ this morning for the first time and was mighty impressed by what I saw… I was jealous.. I was excited and it was a fun to watch it…
    I researched more on it.. found that there are two more such videos and then I was led to your blog.

    I can see that these posts are pretty old… but still its a bit disappointing…

    Your posts are justly called ‘Racist’ You have chosen to present a negative picture of the country. the only good thing you said about Delhi; about people being friendly, was said sarcastically.

    I have worked with Americans. They have always been a ‘racist’ race. Be Africans, Asians or for that matter even Europeans, everyone is ‘beneath’ them. Why?? Why are they so proud of their uncivilized tongue?? The people who desert their parents in old age homes?? people who use words like ‘Shit’ ‘fuck’ in every sentence? People who are rude to others, who provide them ‘Economical’ services and products, which an average American would have found very hard to afford, were they not being imported from or outsourced to India?? A country, which has kids shooting their class-mates, parents?? A country with the highest divorce-rate??? A country which has pregnant teenagers?? IS THAT WHAT YOU’RE PROUD OF?

    I know and agree that US of A is a country with clout, money and right resources. They spent and utilized their resources in a planned manner to get where they are right now… and at the same time they have managed to maintain a standard of living worthy of them.

    Then WHY DONT YOU DO THE SAME??

    Spend a little bit of money Dude. I promise you rooms which will smell of lavender & lemongrass. I promise you’ll find the choicest of steaks, perfectly done to assuage your hunger and compliment your palate. I promise you electricity, round the clock and running hot water.

    Don’t expect to get world-class comfort and food by spending a couple of dollars.

    The places shown in your photos are the “oldest” parts of Delhi!!! most filthy and and most ‘Economical’.

    if you can afford to spend $300 on a meal in a jazzy restaurant in New York, I am sure you can spend $20 to get wholesome and nutritious meal in India!

    The “Sati” (burning widows) was abolished 100s of years ago. Cows are holy. My boyfriend is a Hindu. he loves beef. The Gate (Arch) is India Gate (its just called so!!). Its a monument made in the honour of soldiers who died in WW2.

    I have friends & relatives who complained of beggars in New York. My boss was mugged by a white man. Most Indians find it disgusting to wipe off their asses and shit with a piece of paper. Americans smell foul! I have experienced it. the guy in question is a millionaire!

    India is dirty, filthy. It stinks. The people are cheats. They are poor. Don’t use toilet paper. They have germs. they spread diseases. There is no food…. Then, pray tell me, why do statistics show number of foreigners migrating and travelling to India on rise??

    If being to India a couple of times in recent times has not changed your views… hen simple. Don’t come to India… save yourself a lot of trouble and heart ache!!

    I wish you all the best for future.

  38. Whine, whine, whine – listen to Matt and shape up instead. Or continue to tell him he is rude and racist while pointing out all the good things or moving focus to how bad the US is.

    Still won’t change the fact that Matt is a very honest guy that describes what meets his eye. If you want him to be a certain way – go read a religious book or some other fairy tale.

    If you would have bothered you can see that Matt doesn’t walk around looking for rainbows all the time. He bashes things he feels could be improved, thats his style. And if anyone would have taken their time to read his blog from the beginning, you can see that a lot of americans takes there distance from him as well since he is not very happy about good old US. There are a lot of harsch comments about americans in general and Bush.

  39. Adam

    Anyone who has travelled to India has certainly noticed the various things you mention. If they claim nothing bothered them and that it was some kind of spiritual shangri-la then they are lying through their teeth. Difference is, most of them keep the real gritty down to earth dislikes to themselves, chew it over, accept it, and when they may write about a place they put some balance in to portray the various shades of a country accurately. They may see nasty things, they may experience nasty things, they may dissaprove of what locals do, but they take it as only one aspect of the nation and also write about the positives. I’ve been to India 5 times and probably spent up to two years there in total. You know yourself that there for as many rogues there are in India there are just as many beautifully hearted people who will treat you with such humanity. Well, I hope you met the later anyway. Writing blogs is an art form. It is so very easy to condense all the negatives in order to get laughs, and at times I think you have fallen into the same trap that the Blogger called “The Cynical Traveller” did. Although, he has calmed down a lot and writes more of the good things now. Likewise it is very easy to condense all the beautys and mysticism and also be untruthfull, I admit. There are far too many gushing airbrushed travelogues about India. Very rarely do people get the balance just right and neither come across as looking down on a place or putting it on a pedestal where it is some shangri-la. At the end of the day you will write as you will, because that is your freedom to do so. I’m not sure that I agree with people saying that you should write differently now that you are well known and ‘looked up to’. All of that is just their dissapointment from their own projections onto you of how they ‘wanted’ you to be after viewing your dancing videos. But I still think that healthy criticism of people’s writing is valid when the reader knows the country being written about.

    Regards.

  40. GL2008

    Matt

    The paradox of India is that anything you say about India, the opposite is equally true.

    Its unfortunate that you’ve experienced the poor side of India. India has the largest number of $ billionaires in Asia – even more than China or Japan.

    I do hope you come back to appreciate the depth of the Indian way of life and the Indian ethos. You can’t learn that from a street wag. You apparently need it – considering your shallow perspective.

    I however loved your video. Thanks for something so beautiful, I shared it with all my 117 facebook friends.

  41. womper

    hah… the letter from Ghandi to Hitler… briliance.

    I’ve never been to India therefore have no opinion about it… but it makes sense for anyone on the planet.
    don’t put shit on your hand. clean up shit and garbage.

    Everywhere else in the world that’s half educated knows shit and garbage isn’t good for you. :)

    i love this previous comment
    “India is dirty, filthy. It stinks. The people are cheats. They are poor. Don’t use toilet paper. They have germs. they spread diseases. There is no food…. Then, pray tell me, why do statistics show number of foreigners migrating and travelling to India on rise??”

    ever heard of western companies making billions off the backs of the Indian people?
    also, i’m pretty sure the foreigners aren’t wiping their asses with their left hand…

  42. Ted

    I’m an Australian and one thing I’ve noticed is Americans tend stand up and speak their minds, Matt is just as likely to criticize short comings in his own country. The American sense of humour can often be sarcastic and I find it quite entertaining.

    Lets not forget Matt comes from a computer programming background and social skills aren’t usually top on their lists, sorry Matt but it’s true. ha-ha plus constantly being on the road dealing with time differences and jet lag one isn’t going to see the world through rose coloured glasses. besides who likes to be swindled, lied to, and cheated 24/7, this is enough to piss anyone off. The truth usually hurts, swallow your pride, deal with it and try to fix it rather than get in a pissing contest of your county is worse than mine.

    Matt thanks for sharing the world through Matt’s eyes, I may not always agree with your views however your the real deal sharing your experiences and feelings without sugar coating them. Not worrying about what others may think takes raw courage and is admirable.

    keep up he good work mate

  43. Lieve

    Well, doesn’t this show why the world is not a funnier place?

    How did you people get to the point where you scream and shout murder and racism here?
    Is it so difficult to simply read Matt’s blog in an objective way, and understand that it was meant for his family and friends? That it was never meant to be a travel-guide or an official review, but a personal account of a private trip? That these entries were written way back before he became ‘famous’?
    Don’t you see he writes in a half-cynical-half-serious way, sometimes exagerating things, comparable to the style of a stand-up comedian?
    And is it really so hard to read between the lines, and feel the compassion, but above all, the complete uneasiness and frustration with the fact that things are the way they are, and not much better? His frustration with the total unfairness and inequality in the world?
    Do you jump over the parts where he criticizes his own culture and country? Did you jump over the parts where he writes about the kids?
    Don’t you get that his criticism is not rooted in arrogance, but in a deep longing for the world to be a different, happier place?

    How can everyone say they want peace, when they react to something silly as a travelblog in such a violent way?

    I don’t understand.
    But it shows the world is like it is only because people WANT it to be like that.

  44. mark

    I was born and brought up in India, New Delhi specifically. I dont know what part of Delhi you chose to stay in, but its not as bad as you paint it.

    I have native Indian friends and they don’t behave any different from anyone in the US.

    When a foreign traveler comes to India, only the touts come to them. Locals don’t “cheat” or “swindle” you. I’ve had fun with many who think I dont know Hindi and then go on to treat me like I would get lost if I wasn’t with them.

    But mate, although what you have pointed out is true, all you’ve written is about the negative stuff. As if that is all that you can experience there. You seem to have made a mount out of a mole hill. Its not the cities problem if you are unaccustomed to a particular lifestyle and chose to live in that part of the city completely obtuse to it. How is it that you missed most of the beautiful places in Delhi? And wouldn’t sanitation be a relative concept? I know Europeans who would never go back to NYC. If people in India are immune to a certain level of dirt around them and you are not does not mean they care less about cleanliness as a people in general. That would be stereotyping, which is wrong, because it works either way.

    I also live in Delhi, and I love it. Just a few months away from it makes me yearn to go back. I know now that I will live and die there and I am proud of it.

  45. Americantraveler

    Everything Matt said about India is completely true. India is not a place everyone can visit, and is a very difficult place for westerners to visit. The heat, the pollution, the animals, the smells, and the in-your-face poverty is something only a few people can deal with. Therefore there are two categories of tourists to India, those who can’t deal with the “foreignness” and hate it, and those that do and love it. Matt is in the first group, and I am in the latter.

  46. Mustang

    Average India is filthy and overcrowded. Can’t change that. Welthy India is mere 20 percent. They will never will be seen by tourists like Matt and never will Matt have access to them.

    Being 80 percent shit and thats all a tourist can see. Let’s not deny the fact . India is crap.Indians stink.

  47. shivani

    its sad that Indians itself turn a blind eye to the polluted hell that ganges has become.
    an Indian speaking here.
    and yes,m one of the people who bother to research about something before they talk.
    its nice that he gave an explanation of what he thought about India !
    somewhere above i read some guy saying that america is bad as its a place where women sleep with anybody or something along the same lines. Lol ! what do you think happens in India ?
    sorry Matt ! people here are too hung up on a culture that does not encourage them to be braod minded and accept that their system is flawed.

  48. Andrutto

    Big up to u Matt, u iz right about them Indians, they treat whites like idiots. And they be dissing us niggas too! The darker u is the worse.

  49. Kim

    Hi, Matt.

    Loved your video! I also have been to India. Stayed there for three months (mostly in A.P.). Unfortunately, my son, who was six-years-old at the time, caught a skin eating disease that medicine was not helping, so I literally caught the next flight out to the States. Yes, it nearly cost me an arm and a leg, but with my son’s health at stake, money wasn’t an issue. He was quarantined for over 24 hours while three dermatologists checked out what it was that seemed to literally be eating away at his left kneecap. Happy to report they found the source (I don’t even recall the name, because it’s not found in the West and I had never even heard of it), but point is, strong meds helped and now, nine years later, aside from the scars, he’s a strong, healthy 15-year-old :-) The reason I bring that up is because it was the only negative experience I had while in India. Well, okay, I could also mention the near-daily power outages and the fact that toilet paper doesn’t exist, and yes, it didn’t smell pleasant anywhere I went, but ya know, I didn’t allow any of that to bother me. I learned to look beyond the outward appearances and focused on what I encountered, and that is, amazing, determined, tenacious, friendly people! I sincerely enjoyed myself! Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to go back since 2002 due to the fact my son refuses to ever step foot on India’s soil again (understandable given his circumstance), but I have vowed to go again once he has grown and moved out to establish his own life. And who knows? I may even end up retiring somewhere in India :-)

  50. Kim

    And for those who are upset over Matt’s opinions: please keep in mind we all have them, irregardless of whether or not we speak them (or type them as in Matt’s case). Does it matter if he reveals his opinions? Maybe not, but he has that right, as do you! And yes, me, too! We all have a right to speak our minds! That’s what is so wonderful about the internet :-) you have to learn to be more thick skinned and not let such comments effect you. I always roll them off my back like duck to water. Why get so upset?? They’re just observations. Nothing more, nothing less. If he spoke badly about your country, I’m sorry, but remember that culture clashes exist. It sounds as if Matt had a difficult time adapting. It happens. Perhaps he could have been a little less harsh with his words in describing things, but it is what it is. That doesn’t make him a bad person. It’s just his way of honestly expressing what he’s seen, heard, smelled, felt and tasted. I personally think he’s funny and intelligent with a wonderful writing style that keeps me interested in what he has to say in his next blog. So I say, “Keep it up, Matt!” and for everyone else, watch his videos with a smile and never, ever take his words (or anyone else’s words) to heart, for they are, after all, words. Merely an extension of what’s on his mind. Once we all learn to embrace and respect our differences, this world would be a much better place :-)

  51. All you motherfuckers who think India is the land of shit, turn ur fucking heads around and look @ ur own country assholes. Ur reeling in debt crisis, staggering economies, wars around the globe, political unrests.Ur now dependent on what u guys used to call third world nations. Yes, I agree that Indians are filthy, unruly, manipulative and corrupt…..but so are you. We maybe all this, but atleast we have the common courtsey to be polite to all strangers we meet. The rates charged in India for foreigners is no hogwash, the same changes apply as we travel throughout the globe, be it Europe, Australia or US, so stop complaning about the rates here.

    P.S. I love ur video Matt, but u need to view every country u visit with an open mind. Seeing as u have a vey shallow perspective of Indian Culture i suggest u get some of ur facts right about India b4 u visit again.

    And for all the idiots who are posting crap about my country……get a life dude. I can proudly say i’m an Indian.
    ^o/

  52. Can not say what is my point of view on your finding about Delhi but certainly you have created quite an engaging environment here… following your posts… you are a great traveler…

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