I have been in India for exactly two weeks now. (Happy Valentines day, by the way!)
We arrived in Delhi and stayed for a couple of days. We didn’t do much exploring around the city, but we did visit Gandhi’s cremation site and a craft market. It was neat, but with culture shock and jet lag upon us as we were shuttled around in buses and cars, I don’t feel like I even got a glimpse of what Delhi is all about.
From Delhi, we took something like a seven hour bus ride to Jaipur. Jaipur is quite a place. For the first week, I couldn’t stop thinking about Nepal. Even more than I was homesick, I was Nepal-sick! So many things are so similar, but just different enough for me to wish they were what I know. I didn’t realize until a couple of days ago that I was in denial of being in culture shock. I think that I had convinced myself that I was already accustomed to this place and this culture, but that certainly is not the truth. I do still slightly miss Nepal and something about the richness of it all, but I’m sure that I will be able to experience that here too. Maybe I just need to look a little harder. All experiences are what you make of them, no?
Anyways. There are 24 students in my group and we all go to classes (sustainable development, hindi, and field studies) at the center every day. The topics have been very interesting and it’s clear that understanding the history of India is important to understanding India today.
Today, we talked about Gandhi and I thought I’d share a couple of things that I found interesting with you. One thing that we discussed, based upon a reading, was that Gandhi still serves as one of the greatest figures in India’s society. Not only are his words still quoted, his image is embedded in the currency. India however, is non-representative of Gandhi. The corruption of government, pollution, caste system, religious disputes, etc. are great issues within the society, and they all go against what Gandhi believed. So then why does Gandhi represent India still? hmm… Slightly off topic was a comment another student made about how terrible he feels every day while walking down the street, because he is passing by people who are dying, crippled, or hungry. The pain that strikes you when you see these people is something that cannot be described, but what is worse is that each of us just continues to walk by, without stopping. It’s difficult to find the balance between empathy and ignorance, as we train ourselves not to let this bother us…I guess that this awareness is a first step. Surely, there are many people who are not as visible, not on the streets of the big cities, who are in equal states of health and are not receiving help. Society is ignoring them just the same.
It is truly amazing how vastly different the economic statuses are, and how great of a role that plays in the lives of the people. I am slowly coming to terms with how nice the my home stay house is and the amenities that I am able to come home to at night. Seeing poverty so intimately and frequently may affect a person greatly in the moment, but it is amazing how quickly those feelings are forgotten when separated from the situation for even a moment.
Although the days feel long, they are filled with lots of thoughts and adventures. I’ve posted some pictures, so hopefully you’ll enjoy the beauty that may be found in India as much as I do.