17 days in India, a place filled with thousands and thousand of details, each significant. I had direct experience, I didn’t use computers or TV screens to separate me from reality. I saw, heard, and smelled India and it was overwhelming.
I’m in The US now, a place of physical order, roads are paved, the overall colors are somewhat subdued, and litter is picked up. But there are screens here, they are everywhere. They scream with chaos and division.
My emotions are are frazzled because I have been involved in two very intense worlds and they have open a Pandora’s box of contradictions and painful pondering.
India had Gandhi. After independence, he worked so the poorest would have a voice, that the caste system would be discontinued, the curse of drink and drugs would be stopped, and that women would have the same rights as men. Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948.
India had this great reformer but today even with the economic growth rate at 7.4 percent (almost double of that of the US) there is there so much poverty . Five percent of the population, 70.9 million citizens, make less than $1.90 a day. And if you hike that daily number to $3.20, 1/3 of the Indian people are below the poverty level. Thousands of farmers are committing suicide and 40% of all children under 5 are shorter than they should be because of malnutrition.
And when I came back and went to my local Walmart to print out some pictures from my trip, the clerk at the photo counter became interested in what I had experienced in India. I told him that Gandhi had made a big impact on me. And then this young man of 19 or 29 told me that Gandhi had really been a horrible person and he gave me the names of some internet sites to prove it. This was like a slap in the face. Yes, since I had come home, I had become immersed in the cynicism and negativity of America as I watched TV in the privacy of my own living room. But this was a personal affront to something treasured that I had brought back from India.
How can we make the this crazy world better? What can I do? The Hindus believe in the interconnection of all living things, doing good deeds, and self examination. Gandhi believed in civility. In my life, I have made a ton of mistakes. And according to Hindu thought, since I am connected to it all, I’m definitely part of the problem.
I think all humans face a dilemma of trying to be good people while not being doormats. In my school district we taught our students “The Peace Table”. It involve using “I” statements without blame and simply telling people how we felt when something was wrong. Gandhi also used that method. He respectfully told his government about a problem, as the Indian people saw it, and and then offered a solution. I have not been good at this, as I usually stay silent and then finally speak up with anger. I’ve been a pain in the neck, a lot. Somebody once advised me that when dealing with difficulties, it is always wise to be polite and if there isn’t a chance for change,to keep that interaction to a minimum and let it go. But I also need to remember to go beyond this and not to seek revenge or gossip about the person to justify myself or to band people against them. It’s going to be hard for me, I have a lot of bad habits. But I am definitely part of the problem in this world and I need to take responsibility.
I bought a beautiful handmade rug in India which shows the passage of the seasons. I put it next to my bed so I could stand on a bit of India each morning and look out my window to the east and know that each day is a new beginning and an opportunity for me to do better. This is my hope.