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India: A World of Contradictions

By Carrie Benson

        Before landing in Chennai, I was told by the inter-port lecturer that India was a land of contradictions.  After having the privelge of spending five days in India, I have learned that the professor was completely right.  I had the ability to explore southern India by myself for two days, and with a homestay family for the remaining three days, and through the two different types of travel I was able to discover many different sides of Chennai.


            When exploring the city of Chennai by myself, I tried to get lost in different neighborhoods so that I could see how all sorts of people lived in the urban spaces of India.  I stumbled upon one neighborhood that most would classify as a “slum.”  The slum was a simple series of make shift houses that looked almost like tents and other small wooden huts that could be comparable to a shed.  The people of the community were kind enough to allow my friends and I to enter their houses.  The houses inside were very basic.  There were no TV’s, ovens, or other amenities that have become common in the global world.  By simply looking at this type of Indian neighborhood, which I later found was very common in Chennai, a person would think that India was a country very rich in the vernacular.  However, as soon as I stepped out of the small community I saw large, colorful billboards advertising western clothes, cars, high tech electronics, and fancy hotels.  The advertisements made it clear to me that though there was an overwhelming amount of poverty in Chennai, there was also a growing amount of the transnational in the city.

            I got in even better glance at the transnational at my homestay as I stayed with a wealthy family from Chennai.  The family used western cars, had TV’s in every room of their home, and the children wore western style clothes and spoke perfect English.  Though the family still relied heavily on Indian ideals, their everyday lives were becoming increasingly global.

f           When I tried to compare my two urban experiences in India I was able to come to the conclusion that both the vernacular and the global exist there.  However, different people of different social-economic classes are exposed to different amounts of globalization, and while India as a whole is growing economically, it will be a very long time until the poor of India are exposed to large amounts of globalization.  India truly is a land of contrast because it posses large amounts of both vernacular and transnational space.

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