Saturday, January 12, 2008
We visited the Agra Fort today, which used to be the capitol of the Mughal Empire. We also rode across an old railroad bridge and viewed the Taj Mahal from the other side of the river. The Army guard insisted that we couldn't bring our motorcycle there in no uncertain terms. Then his boss came out and said we could do it for $13. I turned to leave and offered him $2.50. He said "No", I drove 50 feet away as if I was leaving, and he came up to me and accepted my offer.
In India, everything and anything can be done for a price. As we waited in line for the Agra Fort for about 20 minutes, throngs of foreign and local tourists cut to the front of the line, gave the security guard some baksheesh and cut in front of everyone to buy their entrance ticket. As I got to the front of the line and saw this blatantly going on, I asked in a loud voice "how corrupt is everyone here?", one guard sort of sheepishly left the scene, but two local tour guides insisted "we are working for you", as if taking money from tourists to payoff security guards and leaving all the honest people in the lurch is a good thing. The worst part of it all is that everyone knows it, and everyone accepts it. It seems to me to be difficult to have a democracy when there are so clearly different classes of people who expect and get different service from the government according to what they can pay.
People in Mumbai told us about government doctors who would tell them to come to their houses after work if they wanted real service. Quite pathetic.
Tonight we are having dinner with a Greek overlander, the first adventure motorcyclist we have seen in Pakistan or India. It will be good to swap stories and get his lowdown as he has been traveling in the area for 5 months.