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By Kristin Trapp

            India’s display of urbanism was sometimes harder to witness than others.  As I was walking through the dirt streets of Jaipur I quickly realized that it was going to be much more difficult to recognize any markings or buildings that showed sign of transnational or vernacular urbanism.  To my utter shock and amazement there was not even a McDonalds, however there were other international businesses.  This place reminded me greatly of Myanmar and that really surprised me.  I never thought that a place that is known for its medical advancements could be this far behind in its cities.  The dimensions of the cultural flow that had once been so pertinent to my understanding of other cities now appear in a completely different manner.  Ethnoscapes and finanscapes will now have a completely different meaning in this port. 

            The excursion that I signed up with through Semester at Sea visited Jaipur, Agra and a half a day in New Delhi.  All of the places we visited were prime tourist attractions.  The ethnoscapes for all of these cities were easy to identify since ethnoscapes include an observation of tourists.  Tourism plays a key role in the daily lives of many of the natives of these cities.  The vernacular aspects of the cities were demonstrated at their peak in the areas around the tourist attractions.  Vendors literally chased me into the tour bus demanding that I purchase something from them.  I felt it would be a very challenging place to travel without some sort of tour guide, but the comforts of traveling with Semester at Sea left this as an assumption that I can not prove as true.  The majority of the places we visited were occupied with people that spoke English and in the instance that there was a language barrier a tour guide was not far away.  Every stop that we made with the trip was to a picturesque place and the feeling that we were not seeing the true “India” was inescapable.  Still knowing that there was more to a city then tourist attractions I wanted to observe some of the buildings that were in these cities.

            Many of the buildings that I saw in Jaipur looked dilapidated and structurally unsound, not the feel of a transnational city.  The majority of the houses do not have air-conditioning and most of them do not even have indoor plumbing.  The best explanation of this is seen in article written by Sudhin Thanawala, “Slums Separate Bombay from its Future Struggle Over Plans for Redevelopment Slows City’s Progress.”  The article mainly discusses the extent of the poverty in which many Indian families live in and their disbelief that their environment will be improved.  Although Thanawala is describing Bombay, may of his points apply to other Indian cities as well.  India’s population is already quite large and is expected to expand its population in the upcoming years.  This presents a huge problem as far a housing is concerned, there just is not enough and as a result the already overcrowed slums will be experience new limits.  The solution is building apartments for families in marshlands and while the project is underway families will live in free housing.  There is still a lot of controversy over the project but developers are optimistic.  The majority of the streets are not paved and side walks seemed to be non-existent.  Cows were allowed to freely graze, stray dogs ran rampant through the streets, definitely not the signs of a global city.  India was very different from most of the countries that I have visited but showed many similarities to Cambodia.  The most shocking observation I made was the complete disregard for one’s necessity to relieve oneself in public, even the middle of a crowd street proved to be acceptable.  Nothing but the hotels appeared to be new and everything felt dirty and dingy. 

            India was a very humbling place to visit.  The basic amenities that the United States has to offer was greatly missed by me during my very long five days in India.  Not being able to drink the water, worry about diseases and every little bug bite was something that I am not accustomed to.  The history that India has is heartbreaking and the lack of resources for basic supplies was very troubling.  The lack of ability to improve oneself because of the caste system is very upsetting.  I definitely had an eye opening experience and upon my departure I missed home in a way I never thought possible.

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