Dear Diary …

Thoughts on India and Tourism

So many people are drawn to India, to this magical, crazy country: package tourists in Goa, the intellectual bourgeoisie in Rajasthan, old and young Hippies and lost souls, esoterics and guru worshippers, eccentrics and travel junkies. I wonder a little about the impact of all this on Indian society. The transformation of some old towns into souvenir shopping miles is as obvious as the business mentality including the commission system. What about all those who seek the path to enlightenment? Those who make pilgrimages to ashrams or dress like sadhus, who chant themselves into ecstasy in the puja? Are they preserving the ancient Hindu religion whose gods are not even as enlightened as the Greek Olympus? Do they drive all those debased, enslaved, abandoned beings (Marx), disappointed by the failure of revolution, even more into the comforting religion that postpones the good life until after death? Do they find inner peace and “spiritual happiness”? Osho advises, “be youself!” You don’t really need a guru for these insights, but it is precisely their followers who do not follow this wisdom.


They meet a technology-glorifying society here. Right next to the temples, billboards praise mobile phones and TVs, motorbikes and DVD players. “Videocom. Technology for health and plaisure”. Every hut a satellite dish. Tata Steel claims: “Steel is live”.

Business is everything. More than in Europe, Marx’s sarcastic observation that in capitalism people only face each other as commodity owners seems to apply here. India has a more social society than the admittedly cold one in Europe, many Indians think. Perhaps in compulsory collectives like family, caste or rackets. Otherwise, however, there is not much to be seen of it. The “yes friend, want to see my shop?” expresses the depth of friendships. But how can there be deep friendships when a person has 4 jobs at the same time?

The “religion of everyday life” (Marx), the capitalist ideology, is mixed with the customary puja or the Krishna picture on the wall, the economically mediated rule with the direct rule of the caste system and patriarchy, which is still clearly noticeable, especially in the countryside.

What about Gandhi? His non-violent resistance at least shook off the colonial yoke, but replaced it with new domination and exploitation. Someone tells me he likes Gandhi: because he is on every banknote. Others kiss the banknote they get, hold it in their folded hands and touch their foreheads reverently.

What about the communists? In Kerala and Kolkata, the PCI regularly forms the government; PCI-M and PCI-ML are also strong. Maoist Naxalites still regularly commit attacks. The trade unions in Kolkata are so strong that there is almost always a strike.

But everything remains in the authoritarian camp between Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, Mao. There was an anti-authoritarian 1968 in India too, but here too it ended in Maoist petty parties and small guerrillas killing each other. The anti-authoritarian current is hardly perceptible today, most likely in that chalk writing on a freight wagon: “unfit to load coal”. Below it, railway workers sit in the shade and smoke…

However, utopia is often mixed with spirituality or religion, as in the spiri-commune Auroville or the Madonna picture in the bookshop “other India” in Goa. Antiglobs, peasant movement etc. also exist, but I haven’t noticed anything about them.

And where am I in all this? Am I in search of ever new exotic impressions or on the run? Am I simply addicted to travel? Am I creative or do I just take the same photos that have been taken a million times before? Do I change the something, do I have a subversive effect, or do I limit myself to watching, to passively observing the existing? How romanticising in bright colours or annoyed and deprecating do my eyes perceive? And what effect does it all have on me, the constant movement, the passing of people, landscapes and buildings? The many boring, superficial encounters? The intense and beautiful encounters? I am not looking for the meaning of life, but perhaps I am a little bit just me.

Read on

13 months as a backpacker through Asia