Hello India!

Hello India!

It’s been a while since our last post, and we know it. But then again there hasn’t been much to tell from our side. We have mostly been occupied with finalizing our project in the store. The end is in sight and we can confidently say that we will finish our part of that project this month! Great news for us after more than one year of sweat, tears, eating dust and the inventorization of almost 16.000 articles! (start applause here)

In the last year, we have taken some time to travel as well, and recently we went to India with a group of 14 people who besides us, all came there from Belgium. The trip was led by 2 Indian people who also study in Belgium. India has surprised me in many ways and I would like to share my thoughts and interest about this beautiful country. I’m sure some of you have been there as well so please share your thoughts in the comments!

We have always been told India is a country you either hate or love, there’s no in-between. Personally, I have to agree with that. I absolutely love it. Coming from Indonesia, I suppose the culture shock is less than some of our friends who came all the way from Belgium and visited their first Asian country… We were traveling in a big group with more than 5 different nationalities for around 2,5 weeks. After that, I and Natalia added another week on our own. Yes, on our own. Me, exploring the Indian forests and Natalia attending local Yoga classes and exploring Mysore city.

India is crowded, dirty and very big, just like Indonesia (India is only about ⅓ bigger but has more than 5 times the amount of people). If you manage to see through the dirt, the crowds and the vast surface of land you will see beauty. Beauty from many perspectives like religion, nature, wildlife, culture, history, and food.
Religion often shapes a country’s culture and habits, especially in this part of the world. India is no different. With 84% of the people following the oldest religion in the world, this country is built on Hinduism, through and through. Because of this, all living creatures are respected because they are believed to represent many Gods. This sole religious approach makes India particularly very interesting to me.

As all readers here already know, Indonesia is the biggest Muslim nation on the planet. More than 90% follow Muhammed’s words. The Quran has similar “rules” regarding respect for other living creatures (source). It says all other living things (animals, birds,…) should be treated with respect and cannot be killed except for food. And if they are killed for food they should be killed a certain way (halal). Hunting for sport is also strongly prohibited and considered a sin. However, Indonesia is one of the biggest illegal wildlife trade countries in the world, with very little to no improvement, probably due to corruption throughout the whole country (source).

There’s another thing called tradition, which apparently overtakes religion for many people. I couldn’t find info on whether the Quran is actually written before this particular Javanese tradition or not. On the island of Java, tradition says every man should have 5 things. A house, a wife, a horse or carriage, a bird and a weapon (or “sharp” mind). I really encourage you to read more here. The bird is caged, mostly hanging in front of the house. If you’ve been to Indonesia you’ve most certainly seen these caged trophies.
Also bird singing contests, illegal wildlife trading, hunting for sport and selling animals are all sins according to the holy book because all these activities jeopardize the wellbeing of living creatures.

Let’s go back to India. Very little (public) bird markets (did not see any), no disrespect for animals, huge conservation efforts (that actually work) and even worshipping of some animals. Wait, where am I? Is this a dream?…
India is home to 70% of the world’s tigers, 55% of the world’s elephants, all 400 remaining Asiatic lions, all 2700 Indian rhinos, all 2500 dholes, etc. Very dubious numbers if you see what some of them were decades ago. But most of all, India has a huge responsibility here. Having so many species on the brink of extinction in their last resort is both wonderful and disturbing. Don’t forget all these animals share the land with 1,37 billion people. I’m very curious about how this will evolve in the near future. And the most important thing India proves here is that developing countries do have the capacity to regulate their laws and discipline their people. And as a result of that, achieve very successful conservation goals…

Personally, I think the influence of a country’s religion on other living things is directly related, but not always. Both Islam and Hinduism state respect for planet earth and all living things in it. India wins this one big time and living creatures in India are lucky to live in that part of the world. How come? What went wrong here Indonesia? Is it because of this old Javan tradition that hundreds of species are on the brink of extinction? For the birds, apparently so. But other animals, like pangolins (the world’s most traded animal), are killed and captured for selling to the Chinese. So money is also overruling the holy book (surprised?). Even though they call themselves followers of the holy word? How can India be so different in the above aspects when they are even poorer than Indonesia (on average). Why don’t Indian people sell all the living creatures in their country and sell them to the Chinese? Is it because of better discipline in following the law, is it because of better nationwide law enforcement or is it because people are more loyal to their religion??

Damn, no sleep for me tonight…

DISCLAIMER: Allow me to clarify that the above findings and opinions are purely subjective and based on reliable sources I have found on the internet. My conclusions are an attempt to understanding and finding why these countries are so similar, but yet so different. These differences and habits of both countries are things that keep me awake at night, figuring out why certain things are like they are. So when reading, don’t be offended because it is obviously not my intention to provoke anything/anyone. On the contrary, I would love to hear your opinions in the comments!

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