My initial reaction getting off of the plane in India was complete shock. It was very reminiscent of documentaries and Bollywood movies. The cars/bikes beeped their horns every four seconds, eight lanes in the wake of a two lane distinction, and more. I was being stared at constantly, overcharged for most services, and the food was not sitting well in my stomach. Then I transitioned into the village. If I thought I was in shock before, this was my wake-up call. All the facilities were outside, and I took showers with at least four spiders, a plethora of bugs, and mold. The toilets welcomed flies and insects from the sewers, the electricity never worked, and I used the facility with the flashlight from my cellphone. I said many times “I cannot do this.”
Luckily, my experience began to change by day three. I was known in the village as “curly boy” because of my hair, and most people thought I was from Africa, because “you can’t be from America, they are all white.” But in the village, although I was different, I was welcomed with open arms, and open-ended questions. The people took a genuine curiosity in getting to know me and forced me to unlock a level on Hindi I did not know I was capable of.
From an American standard, it would be impossible to thrive in the village, but I feel like I am privileged, as the amount of food they eat is enough for 20 people per person, and the love and affection for each other is overwhelming, something unseen in the cities of U.S and even elsewhere in India. Most of all their genuine ability to just “be” – be who they are and comfortable in their skin. I am finding it difficult to understand why these amazing, resilient people are the “untouchables,” when they work 12 hours a day and manage to take care of their families and be hospitable hosts without much help from the Global market. They should be the framework for development, not the other way around.
Live. Learn. Serve.