May 10, 2009
It’s Mother’s Day in India, I guess, at least I saw some commercials on the television indicating that this was the case. Maybe it is, maybe not.
There is a lot of action in the house that I’m living in. A baby naming will take place today, so lot’s of commotion, people in my apartment who I don’t really know. Privacy seems to have very different meanings in India, than what I’m used to. Not that I shut my door and that is it for the rest of the world, because I have left my door open and my neighbors walk in and out, especially the children who grab my basketball and dribble. But this seems to be a bit much.
There is a great deal of curiosity about foreigners, no doubt about this. I still get my fair share of stares when I’m out in public. The tut-tut, three wheel drivers, some at least, laugh at me when I tell them that it is illegal not to use their meters. But, I’ll keep trying and threatening. There are those who laugh when I say, “stop pushing and let me out of the metro”. On some level, I’m becoming part of the fabric, but on another level I keep my very western ways to myself and try to tell others about them, through, what I consider to be my “polite” way of dealing with others. But as I know not everyone shares this and why should they?
Privacy is another matter in India. With extended families living with one another, there appears to be little of the western privacy. It’s not unusual at this point, for people just to come into my apartment. On some level, I’m just part of the family, but on another level, I want people to respect my privacy.
My music, loaded on my laptop, has kept me sane. I’m so glad that I can hear these sounds that remind me of the United States. Yes, I suppose that I’m coming to appreciate the comfort of my home country. But that is what part of this exploration is about. Of course, I’ve met some wonderful people in India and have found a great b-ball game, and am making a life for myself, but it still seems quite foreign. I don’t really understand Hindi and certainly don’t speak it well enough to communicate with many people. The heat is definitely exhausting and I am a stranger.
I see the same moon that we all see, but somehow it’s different. I realize that all of this takes time to become used to. When I think about how we all share the same planet, it is certainly quite mind boggling. I can still listen to a Lakers-Rockets game, but it is the morning instead of the evening and I have a gas stove to cook on and people just don’t look like me.
But then I think about the tremendous opportunity that I have in my work life, something, I don’t necessarily feel that I would have received in the U.S. Yes, I’ve made impacts throughout my life, but nothing like I feel that I can make here and that feels pretty good. I’ll be travelling a lot in my job, starting with one week in Bhopal on Monday. I’ll be going with some colleagues and we’ll be giving a capacity building, fundraising workshop.
Of course, it all remains a challenge especially the heat. At times, I’m not gravely impacted by it, but at other times I can really feel it. I also know that I’ve lost a bit of weight, but am hungry quite a bit, so am confident that I’ll gain this back, most likely during the winter, which I’m looking forward to. Of course I don’t want to wish away any of the time that I’m here, want to enjoy it all no matter how challenging it may be.
I do like the surprise of it all though, because I never do quite know what I’ll be seeing. Walking home from the bus, I’ll see some weddings with great celebration, lots of noise, live music, fireworks, just walking down the side of the road. I really can’t ever walk home without there being lots of people, noise, animals, dust. Yes, the surprise of it all truly keeps one alive and that is what India is about, staying alive.
I’m wondering if this is also possibly the case in other “developing” countries. Life and death for that matter are so prevalent that one can’t help but live a full life with many celebrations no matter what socio-economic level one is at. Something to ponder and find out more about.
Life is just a gigantic classroom and there are teachers everywhere one looks and even if one doesn’t look. It’s a matter of keeping one’s mind open and to always be aware of the doors that keep turning up. It is something like Alice in Wonderland, with things appearing, but why not slide down the rabbit hole? Why not walk through the fences that we put up around us? It’s all there. So why not?