Posted by: Sanjeev | May 31, 2008

Carved by the sun

The first thing I noticed about the room was that the wrinkles were softer. People’s faces did show signs of aging. But the lines cut less deeply into the skin.

That was because nobody here worked in the sun. I had gotten used to seeing thousands of people who earned their livings on Delhi’s streets: autorickshaw drivers, construction laborers, street vendors, hawkers. But these vast cross-sections of Delhi society were missing from the room.

One thousand rupees equals about $25 USD. And when you only earn Rs. 2,000 – Rs. 5,000 a month, you are unlikely to be found standing in line at an international departure terminal.

I was waiting to talk to the Indian immigration officials who would stamp my U.S. passport and give me permission to leave. As I scanned the room, I felt like I had stepped into a special kind of club.

Even a one-way ticket from Delhi to Dubai might cost ten thousand rupees ($250). And so every passenger in the room had to be a member of the club of first world societies.

Many were from the first world societies inside India — the professional classes and upper classes with good networks and good paychecks. Even if the traveler wasn’t paying for the ticket, someone they knew was. An employer, a university, a family member.

Other passengers came from the first world societies that were also first world nations — the U.S., European countries, etc. But either way, there were a whole lot of people missing from the room. And it occurred to me that this is what a room of prosperity looks like — far fewer faces carved by the sun.


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