India, Day 7 - My second arrival.
When we last cracked open the volume entitled "Steven in India," I was traveling south. I dodged the monsoons of India's northeast corner to go a little further south and bob back up out of reach of the deluge. My second host and I passed fields of tea and roads of corn, and we arrived safely in the little town you see below. What makes this town unique in India? The poverty and the lack of mobility, that's what. This area has the lowest education rates in India. I visited some schools, and I can say that the teachers are well-intentioned and do all they can, but when there are very few visible options for graduates or non-graduates within a hundred miles, what incentives do students have to continue?
At any rate, the welcome I received the moment I stepped out of the Bolero was intense. Very few white faces are seen in this area, and my own epidermis was more than just a novelty, it was a beacon. A mob of kids materialized all around me as soon as my feet hit the muddy ground. Young children and young adults. Cute and homely. They all appeared around me with their lips bulgingly wrapped around the enormous teeth common to the tribes of the region. These smiles were quickly unsheathed when I smiled at them. They shook my hand and held on to it in the Indian way as they asked my name and learned as much about me as they could in as short a time as possible, just in case I wasn't staying. And, as always, the people of India never glance when there's time to stare. And boy do they know how to stare. The unblinking gaze is rarely a sign of hostility or rudeness, it's simply how the culture operates. Whoever didn't come directly up to me stood at the edge of the throng and gave me a firm and unblinking once-over--their gazes can be glimpsed in the background of a few photos.