25 new HIV patients everyday

I went to the NACO (National AIDS control Organization) center at BHU with Claire today to get some data about HIV patients in Varanasi for our upcoming workshop at schools. First of all the counselor did not agree to give us any data, and told us to contact the head of the department first and then get permission. I had told her that I was from an NGO but still she did not want to give us any data. We went to the head of department’s room but could not meet him as he was busy with someone else.

We waited for two hours at the counselor’s room. We saw many people coming to get tested. I met a girl who was HIV positive and now volunteers for the NACO center. After spending a few minutes the counselor became friends with Claire and told us everything we were looking for. I am sure she did it only because a white skinned person was there. She said that NACO has a testing center in a lot of different districts of Uttar Pradesh but the BHU one is the only one in all of Poorvanchal where they have ELISA testing facility.

Poorvanchal is a county of Uttar Pradesh which contains seventeen districts. I was shocked to hear that all the people who want to get tested for HIV enentually come to Varanasi center. They can get tested in their districts as well but those reports are not considered as the final report. The ELISA test is the most reliable test and is available in Poorvanchal only at BHU center. She said that the number of HIV patients has increased rapidly within the past few years. When she joined the job nine years ago they had only five-six hundred people every month who wanted to get tested but now this number is between one hundred and fifty and two hundred.

She said that they had hardly fifty to hundred positive results every month a few years ago but now they have at least twenty five positive results everyday. This number was huge and I could not believe it. The interesting thing was that they have only people who are sent by some doctor, think about the people who do not know if they have HIV. She also admitted that the number of positive cases will increase rapidly within the next few years because government’s approach towards this issue is insufficient.

She was not happy with her job. She said that her salary was too low. She said that the WHO gives huge amount of money to the Indian government then Indian government gives money to the Uttar Pradesh government and then Uttar Pradesh government gives money to NACO therefore most of the money is eaten by the politicians and other people involved with this project.

There was one thing that I liked most about this work is that now they give free ARVs to every positive patient. They do not give ARVs to every patient, they are given to only those people whose CD4 is below some dangerous level. I asked her about the number but she did not tell me about it.

Per capita income India

This is a big question in India- How much is your salary? Since the India has started developing, people have changed the way they used to talk. About twenty years ago, the first question after meeting someone was- What your parents do? But today the first question is what do you do and then what your parents do. The family is still very important in Indian society so I am sure it will be present for long times. But the problem is that salary is always a confusing number in India. People don’t know how much money do they make. Even though they have a fixed salary but still they don’t know the right amount they make because bribery is a big part of their income.

This is the way this question goes:- Someone asks other person:- What is your salary? The first person:- ten thousand but I make about twenty including everything. This everything means bribe. Sometimes people say only their right salary then other person asks does it include everything. This bribe has become a part of people’s salary, specially government employees. Most of the government employees are involved in bribery. They just don’t work without taking bribe. I can not think of any government department where I can get any work done without offering bribe to the government officers.

Whether it is civil courts, electricity department, water department, municipality, road transport office, police… just any department. If someone wants a case to be heard after a month, it is very easy. I just need to offer some money to the clerks and they give a date as per my convenience. If someone doesn’t want to pay the actual electricity bill, it is very easy. They can pay 25% of the bill to a electricity office employee and get the bill decreased by 50%. Getting a fake driving license, no problem. You never go through any test. Just bribe someone and they give you the driving license. It doesn’t matter if you can drive or not.

Sometimes I wonder how big the difference is between Indian government offices and western government offices. When any western person asks me about my salary and I tell them a amount then they ask me if this amount is after tax or before tax. But in India people say if the amount is after bribe or before bribe. What a huge difference. Most of the people don’t pay any income tax. It is very easy to hide the income and do not pay any tax. People decide how much do they want to pay as income tax.

Since India is still in lack of jobs, very few people get their salary in their bank accounts.Most of the people get their salary direct in hand and government never knows about it. There is a another problem with getting salary in hand. All the cities have a standard minimum wage but I don’t think if any employer thinks about it. Huge number of people get only half of the standard wage. Even companies like Coca-Cola don’t pay standard wage to its temporary employees. I think we need more records in computers and maybe this will solve a lot of problems. But who knows, maybe a new technique to defeat computers.

Good people and bad people look for jobs

The title of this post is upside down because I have noticed a few things where quality is thrown out and garbage is being collected by our people and government. First off I want to talk about my brother who is an Italian interpreter and works for a very big travel agency in India. He lives in Delhi and has been working as interpreter and escort with Italian tourists and researchers for the last two years. He doesn’t have a tour guide license but he has very good knowledge.

A lot of Italian travel agencies recommend him for their groups. He started working two years ago and his first group was of only two people. His last group consisted of sixty people. It means that he progressed rapidly. He has to hire a government-authorized tour guide in all the cities he goes to with his clients because non-licensed guys are not allowed to work. The guides that he hires are supposed to be quiet and let him work. They are hired just to protect him.

A lot of government authorized guides don’t like him anymore because he gets big groups, and those guides have to be satisfied with small groups. Last week he went to Jama Masjid in Delhi with his clients but he was stopped by the licensed tour guides at the entrance gate. They asked for his license but my brother did not have it, but he had a licensed guy with him. Government authorized guides asked this other licensed guy if he knew Italian. This other guide was a English speaking guide and did not know any Italian.

Government authorized guides told my brother that he could not go inside the Jama Masjid because neither did he have a license nor the licensed guy know Italian. Even though they are not authorized to check the license but they did it. All the guides have same license, it doesn’t not talk about any specific language. You just need to have a license and then you can work. But those government authorized guides wanted my brother to have an Italian speaking guide. I am sure this was all done to disturb him.

At the same time another group of my brother’s travel agency came at Jama Masjid and they had an Italian-speaking government guide. My brother sent his group with this Italian-speaking guide but he could not work. Same thing happened with him in Rajasthan also and again he had to find an Italian speaking government authorized tour guide. Finally he gave up and has stopped working now. He says that he will work with a few groups that had already propositioned his travel agency to send him with them and then maybe not work in the future.

He is not working this year. Now he has switched to operations. He never worked in operations but now it is his compulsion to work in this new department. He says that maybe the government guides will never let him work in the future therefore he needs to learn something new. I am not concerned about his future because he is very smart and can get a job very easily but I think about the politics in tourism industry. A guy who has very good knowledge and experience has been thrown out and the other guys who are outdated and don’t know anything are given work and support. UPSIDE DOWN.

Another story is about one of my relatives. He is a twenty-four year old guy who never wanted to go to school. He always wanted to be a criminal. He has been arrested by the police several times for several reasons. He went to school for a few years but never as a student. His father works at a Sanskrit university in Benares. He arranged 10th and 12th class certificates for his son by bribing some school in the state of Bihar. Later he arranged a graduation degree from his university. Now the son has a graduate degree without going to school ever.

His father got him admitted in a B.Ed. (Bachelor of Education) course somewhere in a university in Gujrat state. This was also done by bribing because the son never participated in any kind of admission test. The son still stays at home and is involved in the same kind of bad work that he has been doing for years but his record at the university is maintained properly. So after three years he will have a B.Ed. degree and will become a teacher. His father says that he can get a teacher’s job at some government school for his son by bribing government officers.

Last year I saw a news paper advertisement for peon job in the municipality of Benares. The requirements for this job were 8th class passed certificate and knowledge of bicycle driving because peons are supposed to visit the nearby areas and watch the illegal construction. But a lot of Masters and Ph.D degree holders had applied for this job. It shows that even Masters and Ph.D degree holders have no job here. Finally the municipality invited all the highly educated guys for the interview, and Masters and Ph.D degree holders got jobs as peon.

They said that since they were facing job problems, they decided to just start something. Now Ph.D degree holders will drive bicycles and watch the illegal construction and report it to the municipality. Their whole lives labor did not help them. I am sure they will be involved in lots of bribing because peons get very little money and usually they bear their expenses by getting bribe from the people who do illegal construction or do any kind of municipality-related work.

So a guy who never went to school will become a teacher in the future and the guys who have Pd.D degrees are working as peon in this municipality. I was wondering what my relative could teach to the students- how to loot people? or how to beat someone? And the guys who did research, did a lot of labor have the lowest job in the industry. UPSIDE DOWN.

Effect of inflation on celebration of Diwali

Inflation is killing India nowadays. Everything is at least twice as expensive as the usual price. It was Diwali yesterday but it didn’t fell like the Diwali five or six years ago. Usually people like to buy lots of crackers, buy new clothes, bring something new to their homes but this year everything was so… I think most of the people just stayed at home, cooked food, decorated their home and that’s all. Very few people fired crackers. I believe that it is good for the atmosphere if there are fewer crackers, but there was still something missing.

A lot of people didn’t buy crackers because it was too expensive this year. Usually all the chemicals that are used to make crackers come from China where they are cheap. But this year the Chinese used all the chemicals for the Olympics and delayed supplying them to India. So Indian factories had to buy the chemicals in India which was expensive for them. This whole thing affected pricing of crackers a lot and made it at least two times more expensive.

One of the biggest reason behind people not firing many crackers is that everything is so expensive in India nowadays. People have a hard time, so they prefer to arrange their living needs first. I bought tomatoes and it cost me Rs. 50 per kilo. It was never ever expensive like this before. Uncle Udo says that tomato costs Rs. 70-80 per kilo in Germany. So there is not much difference in the price but there is a huge difference in the income of the people.

I know that foreigners spend more money than us on agriculture, so it must be expensive there. But why it is so expensive here? I asked a lot of people how did their Diwali went and most of them said that it was not good because of inflation. I don’t know how long will it be like this, but if it stays the same way for a long time then a lot of middle class people will become poor again for sure.

Gwalior for tour guide training

I went to Gwalior on the 27th to get counseling for the tour guide training program. I reached Gwalior at 10.30 AM as my train was delayed by 2 hours. Counseling was to start at 3pm so I had almost 4 hours to visit the city. I had already heard about Gwalior fort so I took an auto and reached it at about 11.00pm. Gwalior fort was huge, I had already been to a few forts but I had never seen any fort like this one. It was situated 300 feet up on a hill. There was an inclined road starting at the entrance gate to reach at the fort.

Gwalior Fort

I think the road was almost 2 kilometers long. There was a beautiful Mansingh Palace, Sas-Bahu Temple, Sikh gurudvara and a Teli temple. Since I had 3 hours left when I reached there, I thought that I would be able to visit the whole fort, but I was wrong. This fort was huge and I could not visit all the places inside it. I was looking for a guide book or some information about the fort but there was no assistance for tourists. There was a ticket counter at the entrance gate where it was written that ticket costs only twenty paise. We stopped using twenty paise coin about seven-eight years ago, so it seems like they have not updated anything since then. There was only one coffee shop in this whole campus.

They organize a sound and light show every evening that I really wanted to attend but I could not because I did not have enough time. I liked Sas-Bahu temple a lot. There were lots of carvings on the walls of it. I was amazed to see those carvings which were made about 500 years ago. I saw a lot of Sikhs in Gwalior. There was a group of young Sikh guys inside the fort who came to me and asked to take their photo. After taking the photo, the youngest guy, only thirteen- fourteen years old, came to me and said that I must begin waking up early in the morning. I was shocked to see that how he knew that I don’t sleep in the nights and wake up so late.

Then he said that my friends are not good, they never feed me and always look to get fed by me (Hindi expression when somebody wants to loot you). As I heard this, I immediately realized that he was also a looter. He was also telling the same story that all the looter astrologers say. Then he asked me for money, he wanted fifty rupees. I said I don’t want to pay him, then he asked for twenty five, then ten, five and finally he wanted only two rupees but I didn’t give him any money. He was a young crazy looter person.

After Sas-Bahu temple I moved to Man Singh Palace which was built by Raja Man Singh Tomar in the year 1508. Later Mughals won this palace and used it as a Sahi Jail (sounds like a jail for important people like kings). This was the only palace I had ever seen that had colored tiles on the wall of it, it was beautiful. A few people met me asking if I would like to have a guide but I did not take them as I had only thirty minutes left but now I think it was worth taking them. This palace was very confusing like Bada Imambada of Lucknow. Finally my time was over and I had to leave for the counseling place.

As I reached at the Institute, I saw a lot of people over thirty five years old and a few of them were over 50. I thought they were parents of the students but I was wrong, they were they guys who had qualified the exam. A few people told me that these old guys have been working in the tourist sector for years. I think they did not need to go through any training because they were already working in this sector for years. But they are often stopped by government guides and ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) officers at monuments, therefore they also wanted a license.

The institute was very nice, very fancy. It had a computer lab, library, auditorium and a lush green apartment. All the rooms and auditorium were air conditioned. The counseling was divided in two parts- document verification and registration. The registration process was going on in auditorium but I had to get my documents verified first in a different room. There were three employees of the institute checking all the documents of the students. I had to show them attested Xerox copies of all the certificates along with the original one.

After completing this process, they gave me a form where I had to write my name, roll number, marks obtained in the exam, choice of batch, and center. They told me to fill up that form, and go to the counseling hall. I wanted to get training at the New Delhi center in the second batch but there were only thirty seats for New Delhi center, which were already taken by other students. So, I got selected for the second batch training at the Gwalior center. They charged Rs. 2000 as a training fee which includes library, computer lab and teaching fee as well.

My training will start on the 5th of January and will last for 45 days. After this period there will be a one week tour. After that I will be given a city or a tourist region and I will have to write a report about the history and monument situated in that city. I will get ten weeks to complete the report. After writing the report they will organize an exam and the students who qualify on that exam will go through an interview. After passing the interview, the tour guide license will be issued.

It was 5o’ clock now and my train to go back Benares was at 8:40 so I left the Institute and walked to the Railway station. The Railway station was about 5 kilometers away from the institute but I decided to go on foot so that I could see the city. Gwalior seemed like nice city; obviously it was not as big as Benares but it was much more organized. The traffic was nicer than Benares; housing seemed better; there were gardens; trees; I think it was more like other big cities of India. Benares is completely different from Gwalior.

I met a Benares guy on the train who had also qualified on the exam. He has been working as an escort with Japanese tourists for the past 2-3 years, but he was not happy working with he said that Japanese don’t give money. But now he was so happy that he will get a license, and he said that he will not work with Japanese people anymore. He wanted to work with either American, British or some other rich country’s people. He said that Spanish are also like Japanese people, dont want to give money.

Spain is the eighth largest economy of the world and the fifth largest of Europe, and they sound like nice people. Japan is also a very rich country but he didn’t like either of them. He said that over 75% of Japanese- speaking government guides in Delhi can’t read or write Japanese. They learnt language by speaking only and later they qualified on the exam, which happens only in English. But it will not be possible by next time, because next time exams will be conducted in different languages for different language speaking people.

It was a short but very busy and successful trip. I completed the counseling process, I visited Gwalior fort, and I took a walk in city. It was nice, so I think I will enjoy my time in Gwalior during the training period.

Interview with Musahars in the village

Mushahar is a caste of Hindus. I got opportunity to meet and spend sometime with them when I was working for Financial Times in Varanasi. Mushahars are still considered untouchables in the society. Their traditional job is to pick up the long pepper (Pipal) leaves, make bowl of it and sell it to market.

We went to a village of Mushahar community near Mehndiganj, Varanasi. They still live in huts made by clay. Interviewee was a 24 years old married woman whose husband was a rickshaw driver. She had 6 members in the family including her husband, father in law, mother in law and 2 daughters. None of their daughters go to shcool. Her husband makes only Rs. 25 (50 cents USD) per day. No local person wants to sit on his rickshaw because he is a Mushahar.

Mushahar community get some job during the harvest time. They work on other people’s land to cut the grains. It was funny to hear that people eat the grains which got cut by them but they do not sit on the Mushahar’s rickshaw. Even though they work so hard on field during harvest time they don’t get paid in cash. Their wages is 5 Kgs or grains per day. So if they work for 1 month in a year they make 150 Kgs of grains which is worth Rs. 2000 ($50) per year. Their traditional job is good enough to make them happy in their life but since India is going through huge change in society people have adopted plastic bowl now which has put Mushahars in trouble. I don’t see any shop keeper using leaf bowl in big cities. Cities like Benares still have this tradition but it is also changing.

I remember after completing the interview interviewer gave Rs. 500 to interview because he was shocked to hear that their per day income was only 50 cents. We had a local to help us meeting the people and she said us to tell the villagers to divide the money. Then interviewer gave Rs. 500 more and said to distribute the money in whole community. But it became a big issue for them. They all started fighting. Interviewee was not agree to share her Rs. 500 but villagers were telling that her money should also be distributed. She wanted only rest of Rs. 500 to be distributed. Finally we had to run away because they had became so violent.

This Mushahar village where we went to had only hand pump and one well. Since this village was near Coca-Cola plant, they had huge problem of water. Their hand pump and well both gets dried during summer time and no one, who knows that they are Mushahar, let them take water from their resources. So during summer time they have to walk for at least 2-3 Kms to take the water. Since it is women’s responsibility to collect water for family in Indian villages, it makes Mushahar’s life much harder in Mehndiganj.

When we reached there they brought a Khatia (bed kind of thing made of ropes). I wanted Mushahars to sit with me and as I told them they asked my caste. When I said that I am a Bramhan they refused to sit with me on Khatia because they are a different caste.

Tour guide Varanasi

An American contacted me to book his train ticket from Varanasi to Agra. I told him to buy ticket online but he could not do it as it was so complicated for him. He had told me to meet for dinner in Benares. We met in Benares in his hotel near Assi ghat. He was staying in very nice hotel. When I entered in his hotel, I found one 50 years old man talking to two western girls that he was unable to find a train ticket so he mailed a guy in Varanasi and offered dinner in exchange of booking his ticket.

I knew he was talking about me so I asked him if he was Christopher and obviously his answer was Yes. I am sure he had thought that I helped him in greed of a dinner at a nice restaurant in Varanasi. He was happy to get his ticket and then he asked me what restaurant I wanted to eat at. I had never thought about his offer, I thought he just wanted to talk me but his thinking was quiet strange. Usually I don’t want to eat in restaurants so I said that I didn’t want to eat with him.

Then he said that he had told his hotel that he will eat out somewhere in any restaurant therefore hotel will not prepare food for him. So I took him to a restaurant where he had his dinner. We talked a lot about Coke issue and again he was not agree that Coke was doing wrong. He thought that it was people’s and Indian government fault.

Next day he called me again asking if I would be his tour guide and I excepted his offer. We went to a lot of temples, wandered around in city. He was very much interested in meeting people so I got him meet to Lali Baba. I am sure he was quiet happy with my work but he paid me very little salary. I think he was the richest person I had ever worked with but the least salary I had every got in my whole life. A person who was a piano player and had housing in upper east side of Manhattan, where the average per head salary is $3,20,000 per year, paid me only $10 for one day of work.

I could not ask for more money because I didn’t see the money he paid me. Later when I saw that green note, I found that it was only and only $ 10. It made me remember about what Lane told me- You don’t need to be rich to spend and poor to save money. hahaha, It was so funny.