Thursday, January 08, 2009
It has been a challenge to adjust to my new life in India. Bihar is one of the poorest and most corrupt States in the country. The infrastructure is crumbling or nonexistent. We live in a town called Hajipur, which is about 20 km from Patna, the State capital. Because rickshaws, cars, bikes, and cow-carts gridlock the road, it takes more than an hour to drive the 20 km between Patna and Hajipur.
I had prepared myself for dirt, noise, and chaos, but Patna and Hajipur have exceeded my expectations on all fronts. The hygiene is the worst I’ve ever seen. The roads are lined by pools of water /sewage filled with garbage. Pigs and cows and children wade through the garbage swamps. Open defecation and urination are common. The road often cuts a canyon between mountains of garbage and plastic refuse on either side.
Hajipur is considered a “small town” in India—about 300,000 people. The locals are unused to Westerners. People gape or shout at us when we walk outside the house. There are no comfortable restaurants or bars nearby, and no greenery or peaceful outside retreats.
Still, my discomfort is a small price to pay for the opportunity to work here. The complexity of Indian culture and religious, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity are fascinating. I’m getting a lot of hands on experience in tropical medicine and public health, which complements the book and lab-based learning that I did in Liverpool.