Today is Monday, November 20th, I arrived in India late in the evening on Thursday the 16th. Truly India is a place unlike any I have ever seen nor even truly imagined. Currently I am in Ahmedabad, a city of over 800,000 people in Western India. There is such a sense of diversity that it is almost hard to comprehend as a boy from Iowa. As my friend said to me: “India is order within chaos.” This is funny to me, because I feel that the West often embodies chaos within order. In some senses it is our striving to create the sense of “order” in our outer world that creates such internal disorder. Humans, like any animal on the planet thrive in a sort of disorganized, spontaneous organization of sorts that adapts to the flow of the world around us. It is our desire to dominate the forces of nature, rather than to work within them that creates the sense of disharmony we so often feel within our societal models. These models make for good, productive workers, but not necessarily good people. In our desires to be competitive, civilized and advanced, we have lost touch with our bonds to the world that has bore us. In India, I am staying with my dear friend and teacher Dushyant, as well as his family. In his 3 bedroom home, there is He, his wife, two kids, mother, father, grandmother on his mother’s side and his grandmother on his father’s side, as well as myself as a guest, in addition to the daily drop ins from extended family/friends. So 9 people are living in this 3 bedroom house and it feels so spacious and non intrusive, it is crazy. This type of setup is common in India, where the families take care of one another their entire lives and the relationships they have are so incredibly beautiful. Our sense of family and community is quickly fading in America, but these things are the backbone of our lives, without them what do we truly have? Another beautiful thing about India, is that you can just drop in unannounced to a friend or family member’s home no matter the time and be welcomed with open arms, you will be given refreshments and treated with such loving affection, as well as gratitude just for being there. Everyone I have met has been so incredibly kind and genuine, it is amazing! Within only a few days, it feels as if I have become a part of a rich family dynamic that permeates through every single thing that we do.
My order within chaos comment also segways into the traffic and the way people drive in India. Honestly, at first it is overwhelming and absolutely crazy, its like a sea of madness and chaotic disorder as people cross every which direction, cars, rickshaws, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, etc. weave in and out of one another with no seemingly real direction. No one seems to follow any rules regarding roads, stop lights practically are non existent or if they are, they are disregarded, leaving traffic patrolmen to guide the flow of things at really busy intersections. Cars drive down both sides of the road, regardless of the actual road’s intended direction, everyone is just doing their best to navigate a sea of vehicles as quickly as possible. Thus our order within chaos, it seems chaotic, but in reality with this amount of people, if they were to follow western traffic laws, it would be a perpetual traffic jam at all times and the entire system would be slowed down by such a seemingly orderly approach. Drivers communicate via car horns, beeping to notify others around them of their every movement, so that no one runs into one another and so that cars that wish to move faster can overtake slower drivers without conflict. It’s a very interesting spectacle to take in honestly, but after a few days in such an environment, it all has begun to start to make sense, despite how loud and chaotic it may seem.
The poverty of India is humbling and honestly again beyond my imagination. My first sight was a sort of shanty town outside of the walls of the Mumbai airport, it was such a stark contrast to the luxury consumerism of an airport and the day to day struggle of those whose basic survival is a daily challenge. As I have continued to travel through Ahmedabad, again you are faced with thousands of people living in poverty, buildings barely standing or hobbled together with whatever could be found, people living on the streets, children with nothing, it is a harsh reality of this world that we live in. There are many beautiful sights in Ahmedabad and not all are effected by such things, but it is a more than common sight to see those with less struggling throughout the city, which of course is of no fault to the city or even the government necessarily, this is the product of over population and underdevelopment in a still constantly developing city/country. That being said, I have no real understanding of true poverty, simply because even my idea of poverty in the west, does not compare. What is poverty truly? One might say it is a lack of material comforts or necessities, but still these people survive, live full lives, have friends, family and make the best of their material circumstances. Houses here don’t need many of the things I am accustomed to in the west, simply because it is not needed for this environment. It is never cold, it only rains sometimes and even then it is not overbearing, so in a relatively warm/hot climate, really a person can be comfortable in the simplest of homes no matter their material or external pleasantries.
This is only the beginning, but I know that India will transform the very core of who I am and how it is that I approach my life moving forward.