The Psychological Beating of the Third World

The first thing you’ll notice about riding in the back of an auto-rickshaw is the silent voice screaming in your head: “Watch out for the car! Don’t hit the bike! Slow down!”

After dozens of close calls you realize your physical existence is assured but the psychological beating has just begun. The crushing poverty. The brutal heat. The dust that seems enjoined with the air in just the way you imagine it would in a third world country.

After arriving at my destination, I stepped out of the rickshaw and the pleasure I thought I’d feel from escaping the piece-of-shit golf cart turned into something else: fear.

Little time to ponder this emotion. A homeless man — barely covered in clothes, horribly skinny — grabbed my left ankle. I broke free of his weak, helpless grip and then dodged one of the hundreds of stray dogs which roam the street.

I snuck a wistful glance back to see if my rickshaw was still there. It was not. It had rejoined the chaos of the city.

I turned and faced the street and the overly curious, aggressive stares of the dozens of people standing or lying on the sidewalk.

Bombay, India. Day 1.

10 Responses to The Psychological Beating of the Third World

  1. Alexander Peschkoff says:

    Very vivid picture. It could have been the beginning of a good novel (for some reason, reminds me of Barry Eisler ;)

  2. For some reason, this post almost made me cry. I’m so glad you’re out there and experiencing so much so young.

  3. Maria says:

    This post made me laugh out loud. Ben, you have a good sense of dramatic timing. I like “snuck a wistful glance back”.

    Being an obvious tourist in a 3rd world country is like inviting an attack by an army of ghouls. Hey, at least you’re bigger and better fed.

    I’ve never been to India. I’m curious to see how you think it compares to China.

  4. Alex says:

    Yes – it seems really bad once you are in the mix. It can be pretty brutal, but is a great thing to experience. Ping me if you wanna get together while u are in this fair city.

  5. Anonymous says:

    there are two Indias – and you just described the poor, wretched version. the other one thinks and dreams in quite the way you do.You’ll discover the paradox that India is as you go along, and as an Indian I can assure you that. And be careful, touts will try their best to take you for a ride!

  6. eddmun says:

    Our local newspaper has a “World News” section, and for India in Monday’s edition it had the following news snippet:

    “An auto-rickshaw carrying 16 passengers was hit by a train while attempting to cross a level crossing. All were killed.”

    And I know exactly why it was as well – the poor two stroke engine choked on it’s own blue smoke at the strain of carrying 16 people.

  7. Wendy Geise says:

    One of the presenters at the KM World Conference in San Jose today showed the following video of India traffic that I think you will appreciate.

    link to video.google.com

    A person in the audience commented that the only thing that was missing was the cows. This is very true. My boyfriend was visiting India earlier this year and got runover by a buffalo on a scooter while stopped at an intersection.

  8. Jude says:

    Glad you finally made it to the third world.

  9. Asha Kini says:

    Well, all I can say is “Welcome to Mumbai”. India can be a little overwhelming, especially the first time! I guess the disparity will shock you. I hope you experience the nicer things that India has to offer, the things that I love about this place! Beware of the touts, they live to take tourists for a ride! And if you felt the rickshaws were bad, don’t even bother with the local trains. You are welcome to mail me if you need anything, and I’ll get in touch with you. Enjoy your stay here! :-)

  10. krishna says:

    The best portrayal of third world I’ve read so far…a great first impression.

    But most of the things including the Chaos, the brutal heat, the beggar and the dogs – they have to stay put somewhere too…how else would we describe the world in numerical sequence…!

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