Sunday, January 26, 2014

My Internal Struggle to Understand India

Author's note: This post was written 12 days ago, upon leaving Mumbai for Bangalore, my 3rd last day in India. I hesitated to post it, and now that I've come back to my writings, I believe it best expresses the internal tension Ifelt. It also frames the mindset with which I arrived in Bangalore to meet our client, the Dream School Foundation. - Jen

Nowhere in India can you escape the income disparity gap. Whereas we are accumstomed to poverty on a limited scale, it proliferates everything here. 

Walking down the nicest streets and the most posh areas, you will experience it. Where financial prosperity exists, so too do those who aim to live off it's fringes, thru whatever means may manifest themselves.

I cannot help feel ashamed and the second I question how those living here can simply ignore it, I call myself a hypocrite. I barter with the street vendors for mere dollars, which I can certainly afford. I provide a street vendor $5 for a handmade purse from her slum, then spend $2000 on diamonds for myself. 

Exploring the life of Gandhi through the exhibits in the Mohatma Gandhi House and the writings in his book, I feel so simple. My heart breaks and yet I am just another selfish human, giving a little here and taking a lot. How can we expect India to reform itself socially, so long as those of us with the most behave as we do? They must see us as so vain, materialistic and self-absorbed. They know we'll part with our money if they perservere so long because that's what we do. We consume and we buy. 

Some of my classmates were involved directly with the social brand, Being Human, and through this relationship they visited the SIMA School in Mumbai. The school sells the students artwork and uses the proceeds to run the school and fund further educational opportunities. Is there a more direct or positive means we can put our consumption to good use than this? I bought a purse from a street vendor. She was a beautiful, 8 year old girl who did not get the luxury to go to school like her brothers. In hindsight, I don't even know if her family will keep this money, or if she even has a family. I have faith, but how wayward this life is for children in India, I cannot be certain. 

It makes our work with the Dream School Foundation even more significant for me, but it's increasingly harder to ignore the sense of hopelessness in the pit of my stomach. The disparity is so vast, and the social issues so huge. How much work is still needed to put India on two feet.

A tea stall outside a slum in Delhi. Next door there is a gated, private school.

Kids fly kits on the rooftops of the slum in celebration of the kite festival in Mumbai.

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