Blogs » The Land of the Gods » Sleeping at the temples


After a family-style breakfast yesterday morning in Alleppey (of which I was restricted to two hard-boiled eggs and a piece of toast) we “made a move” to the city of Ranni. In India, when it’s time to leave, you say, “Let’s make a move.”

We stopped halfway on the journey to our new city and picked up a few Rotarians who would be guiding us through Ranni for the next four days.

They immediately wanted to show us the town’s religious antiquity, so we spent the afternoon visiting a man who makes gold mirrors from clay and metal and touring one of Ranni’s most ancient secular temples.

One similarity I’ve noticed about Hindu temples in less-developed cities is they seem to attract the city’s poor.

Lining the entrance of the stairs, as well as inside the compound, men and women with children will sleep on thin sheets and sometimes on bare stone flooring.

They seem peaceful enough, I suppose. I know it’s a good thing the temples provide shelter for the poor.

As we passed them, they didn’t beg for money or attempt to loot valuables from our purses (not that I was expecting them to).

But as I gazed at the gatherings of impoverished Keralites gathered at a Hindu temple, a few things occurred to me.

First, I realized that I’ve never seen poor people sleep on the streets or in front of merchant buildings. They’re always at the temple gates, as if to suggest that in their destitute condition, they trust God will provide for their needs.

Secondly, I realized how little crime exists in this region.

Sociologists around the world will tell you that crime and poverty usually have a corresponding relationship.

But in the few weeks I’ve spent in Kerala, I’ve noticed that people spend the majority of their day with their homes unlocked and doors and windows open. Cars are parked on busy roads with much foot traffic, and bags and valuables are left on the seats in full view. No one ever seems to take precaution against thieves, home invasions, murderers, rapists or any other criminals.

I’ve asked my host families in each city we’ve visited what their crime is like, and each time they respond, “We don’t worry about that.”

What I’ve been able to piece together is that in Kerala, the literacy rate and belief in God is almost 100 percent. So the people as a whole are more inclined to seek help from the temples, churches, mosques and individual families before acting out in violence or other crimes.

That isn’t to say that there is no crime in Kerala. I’m sure there is.

But it’s quite remarkable to walk around in a foreign country on the other side of the world and know an entire state of godly people desire to coexist with personal responsibility and with as little crime as possible.

It was something to behold. And very un-American.

Until tomorrow, Victoria.

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