Delhi. Sevegram. Bt cotton farm. Organic farm. Mumbai. Bhuj. Mandvi. The Great Rann of Kachchh. Countless villages…These are merely the locations I’ve been during the past few weeks. What’s much more interesting than this rather bland list of physical places are the daily adventures I’ve had in each place:
In Delhi, I was entranced by the colorful carnations on the street, the film of grey smog on my neck, and the women’s shining black braids swaying gently down their backs. We had introductory lectures about India’s history, government, population, culture, religions, and current economic situation. It is absurd to think that I learned anything substantial about India as a whole during these lectures. This is a nation consisting of more than a billion people. Furthermore, it is a nation with incredible cultural, linguistic, and historical diversity. One of our guest lecturers told us that we must be foolish if we think we can even begin to scratch the surface of India in a short 2 months.
In Sevegram, I pondered Gandhi’s life and philosophy (he lived in Sevegram once upon a time and established a self-sustaining ashram there). I expected to be very touched by visiting his home, to have some sort of “ah ha!” moment and feel a deep spiritual and emotional connection. Instead, his home felt like a stale museum. While there, I wrestled with concepts of ethics and justice and cultural relativity. I thought of my time with the Maasai of Tanzania, and realized how much their lifestyle would have clashed with Gandhi’s philosophy of truth and non-violence. But does that make it wrong? Perhaps there can there be a different kind of truth for different cultures?
Other details of note: I drank fresh camel milk (still warm from the animal) in the desert. I picked up fresh cow poop with my hands and squished it around in a biogas generator. (Cow poop is actually very sanitary. Many villagers mix it with mud and use it to wall their houses.) On New Years Eve, I went skinny-dipping in the sea under a blue moon and a partial lunar eclipse.
Overall, I’ve immensely enjoyed my time in India. The weather has been a bit cooler than Tanzania. The food has been a bit spicier. My thoughts have been a bit more interesting. I can’t wait for more…
Happy New Year!