Saturday, May 29, 2010

The art of simple

This morning as I took a cold shower for the second day in a row, I thought, “a small thing, but something that makes me really happy”. As many of my VSO friends can attest, after baking in the heat all day, the water tanks on the top of many Indian roofs ensure that all house water is heated. This is not very positive during the summer. (Of course, during the winter the opposite is true). Typically when I take multiple showers in the evening, the first two seconds are cold and after that, it’s fairly hot. But for the past two days, although it is still hot, it has been somewhat cloudy in Delhi, leading to a more positive shower condition, i.e. PSC.

I’m reminded of this as a relative of mine was recently complaining on their FB page that they didn’t have hot water in their house. I’ve realized through my own Indian experience and reading about those of other vols, how much we’ve all adapted to existing conditions, i.e. AEC.

Other simple things that I’ve come to appreciate are:

• Electricity, especially when it is a hot Delhi evening and I can’t run my a/c, power outages are numerous even though the Delhi government said that there would be no black outs this summer;
• Indoor toilet/plumbing, when I literally see so many who don’t have any indoor plumbing;
• A great apartment, when I see so many who sleep in a one room, windowless hovels or in very makeshift tents, (I often see people in a space one day and then someone else the next) never escaping the heat;
• Being able to download as much music as I want, when so many don’t have any access to internet and when they do don’t really know how to use it;
• Litter free environment in my home, when it is common practice to just throw garbage any and everywhere. I’ve been on a kick to remind people not to litter and last night I made my basketball “children” take an oath not to litter. I’ve also started doing this in my capacity building workshops. (I do however, throw my organic waste out my balcony every day, hoping to compost and grow something, although I think the stray dogs eat the waste every night).
• A few raindrops and a breeze, which are often non-existent in Delhi;
• Smiles from most people that I see and a request to take a picture of them, when so many, including my “tailor”, are constantly working and never seem to stop;
• A good job with lots of work, when so many, seemingly having jobs, but are doing nothing more than sitting all day and doing mindless, waiting, maybe selling fruit/veggies, or having to work construction in the Delhi heat for a few rupees a day;
• Skyping and Facebooking to keep me in touch with loved ones, when so many leave their villages and homes for work and see their family once a year, even though they are married and have children, but have to do this in order to survive;
• Being able to blog about sports, when so many don’t have the free time to do anything more than survive;
• Having clothing, even though most of my underwear is full of holes, when so many have one maybe two, if that many, sets of clothing;
• Being able to wash my clothes in a tub in my bathroom, even though many have to wash their clothes in the street and hang it wherever they can to dry;
• Having, food every day, when so many are begging for a few rupees to have some roti, some dal;
• Sweet children in my home, who treat me as a playmate, when so many have only dirt and garbage to play in.

India is an amazing country and I’m constantly reminding Indians about this, which may be somewhat arrogant of me. India is also a country in constant struggle, at times, making me wonder how it could really ever be a superpower. Health and safety, e.g. five people riding a motorcycle, only with the driver wearing a helmet, driving however and wherever a person would like, men urinating every and anywhere. India has, however, made me realize that living on 18,000 rupees/month. Less than $400, in a fairly comfortable lifestyle is not so impossible. This country has made me realize how to do more with less.

I remember my former spouse reading some book about living a simpler, more with less, life. I think that I can say that I’m starting to understand this. When I do eventually make my back to the US for a visit, please have lots of patience with me as I expect that I might be somewhat less than empathetic when I hear that one is without hot water for a day or a week. At times like this I do understand what it is like to live in another culture, LiAC.


Sheila said...

Nice post Mike, It is interesting to think of less v more, and how less makes you more appreciative of the more, how having less or more is part of the lottery of life, where you were born. Many vols feel it is like living in a foreign country when they go home. Its the strangest things that hit you when you have beenn away for ages - when I first spent an extended period in southern Algeria I flew back via Algiers and Paris - boh international cosmapolitan airports, but it was walking through Caharles D Gualle airport that got me - all the glass, the shops and soemthing I couldn't put my finger on to begin with. When i realised what it was I was amazed - it was the smell of the chemical used to clean the floor, I was sufferring from a nasal bombardment of man made aromas. I'd never normally notice them, but having not smelts anything like that at all for the past month I found it abhorrent, it took me only a few days to readjust. But here we are for 2 years! The readjustment back to more will be strange. Friends and family will not understand. Beware. The upside is all the positive experiences you take back with you.

len y. manikan said...

it is a humbling experience. truly, volunteering changes our lives.