Friday, April 22, 2011

Rich on the Inside

"Man is rich in proportion
to the amount of things
he can afford to let alone."
Henry David Thoreau

It took me a good few weeks upon returning home to Sydney (from Incredible India) to actually feel settled. The cultures are so different. The people, so different. The sights, the language, the culture, so different.

I was away for just 3 weeks, but it might as well have been a lifetime. The first time I jumped into my car to go grocery shopping, I had to pull over to the side of the ride and calm myself down. I'd burst into tears as I found the traffic here so aggressive. Quite a funny thought really - because it's a completely different experience to drive in India (not that I dared try!). In India, it's beep BEEP beep beep Beep all the way, every where you go. But it's not aggressive. It's actually a polite 'I'm coming up on your left, on your right, on your behind' kind of beep, simply a way of communication.

Here in Sydney, for all the silence and non-beeping, it was the passively aggressive 'hurry the hell up, you're in my way, you're going too slow, come onnnnn' cutting you off, tailgating, swerving that just freaked me out!  It was different.

And the people living on the streets in India.. that was different too. In fact, the people living in India - full stop. They were different.   It's a country of extremes alright - millions of people living there, most in abject poverty, right alongside outrageous wealth.  And while I'm sure it is hard - I could see with my own eyes that it was hard - these people were still smiling.

The kids were smiling, they were playful, they were talking to the tourists. They were light hearted and happy. In the evenings, when walking along the street, families would gather with other families and chat and joke and banter over little cooking stove tops placed on the footpaths. It was dinner time!  During the day in the heat, families would chat and kids would play or nap in their 'homes', which were plastic sheets fitted along the side of buildings.

These little street kids in Mumbai loved seeing their photos pop up on a digital camera. They kept asking for more and more, and giggled each time they saw a new one show up.  Their parents looked on and smiled. They were not shy - they were just regular little kids, mucking about, having fun, laughing.

We had a driver and tour guide in Delhi, 2 young lads in their early 20's who were so proud of their jobs and for providing for their families. These young guys spoke poetry - not like your average 20 year old Sydney dude. Oh no! They were so polite, they were so enamoured with their country and culture and were so sure of their place in it.  We met a carpet seller in Delhi as well who offered us coffee in his little store and showed us around (we saw how they hand made the rugs!) but at the same time, told us it didn't matter if we bought rugs or not as God would provide for him and his family. And was absolutely convinced in that thought.

It was a country where I saw poverty I'd never imagined. Yet it was a country that was so so rich, I felt embarrassed by all my belongings. I have so much here, so much stuff, yet these people were so much happier than I am.  And Australia, the lucky country? We are a country that lines up from 3am in the morning when a new clothes shop opens.

Oh India, you're a country that takes my breath away in it's shockingly beautiful sights, and I can't wait to come back to you soon :) We have a lot to learn from you. x


Michelle said...

I have not been to India, but I feel exactly the same way when I visit parts of Asia, or parts of the Middle East where people live on less than US$1 a day. It is in these places where I meet the most warm, welcoming and generous of people, who want nothing from you except a smile, and who go out of their way to help you in anything you need. It is always such a big contrast to me whenever I get off the plane and land in the UAE, where people have so much, but yet there is not a smile to be seen. We have so much to learn from them!

Apana Talks said...

now am homesick

i miss the smiles
i miss the beeps
i miss the ashram

happy easter
smiles n light

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