I’ve been back in the U.S. for 2 months where a huge part of what keeps me reflecting on my India experience is my Global Poverty & Practice Minor reflective course. I’d like to add that it’s doing a pretty darn good job at it. It’s strange how time just keeps flying, we go about doing our previous daily routines or embark in new ones and things just…keep moving. My experience in India stamped a memory inside of me, but getting caught in our typical American fast paced life, my experience took a back seat and of course it shouldn’t be that way. I deeply care about this issues of poverty and I am grateful for this minor program that will enable me to spend a whole semester course reflecting on my experiences as well as learn about the experiences of others who also worked locally, domestically or internationally. I’m excited to see where it takes me.
Something I often reflect upon, something I cannot radically change, is the caste system I witnessed while in India. I’ve talked about this before in my previous blogs. And brining that back to a more local realm, I can compare India’s caste system to U.S.’s continuing issues with racism or even classism. Many experience much of this everyday, not knowing what side of it we are actually on as it is embedded in us quite deeply.
When I got returned from India, I went on a cruise with my siblings and my brother’s girlfriend to Alaska. This was our first cruise, something that we couldn’t help but feel guilty about. We touched the topic on how we felt guilty spending that amount of money on such a trip, where it was aimed for us to experience complete relaxation, comfort, and if I may, what seemed like royal treatment. We were obviously not use to such a thing. A week full of not doing our own beds, unlimited food, not having to deal with our dishes, not having to deal with cleaning of any sort, had towel animals made for us every night, and as ridiculous as it sounds, having the corner of our bed sheets pulled back ready for us to jump right in every night. “People live like this everyday”, my sister pointed out. I won’t say it wasn’t enjoyable, but I will say it made me reflect much deeper. We’d quietly analyze the behavior of many passengers on the cruise; a strong sense of entitlement seemed to have been a theme, which had us critiquing it several times. Why do we act in such rude and mean ways towards others, not only on this ship, but also everywhere else?
Our minds are set onto a face paced setting, where all we care about are ourselves and those closest to us… but are people truly happy? I would argue that many are not, actually a vast majority are not. I’ve been spending a lot of time on my own these past few weeks, where I walk and look to a person when walking past them and I get nothing. No smile, no hello, no eye-contact, no nothing. I sit on the grass in the middle of campus, and here too I hardly notice people smiling but instead a huge absence of people reflecting happiness. We need some sort of transformation where it perhaps starts with how we live our own lives, which might trigger a change in the way we interact with others.
One last story before I end this: Yesterday as I walked out of my apartment in Berkeley, a predominantly private area where mainly neighborhood residents use the pathway in front of my apartment, I noticed what seemed like a homeless man sitting on that path talking to himself. I said hello and continued my path, unable to avoid the thought ‘this is first time I see homeless person up here.’ This morning as I was getting ready to leave, I saw him through the window walking down that same path in a hurry with the same clothes on from yesterday. I felt an instant impulse to give him some food of some sort but he was long gone. When I returned home earlier today, I again saw him walk down the same path through the window. Without thinking twice I ran to my room and grabbed 3 Clif bars and walked outside as quickly as possible. I suddenly had this feeling of fear, and I couldn’t help but think, ‘will I offend him by giving him this food?’ As I walked down the path, I noticed he was squatting on the path as if defecating. He looked up and saw me and he quickly pulled up his pants. As I got closer, I noticed it was a women. She was truly embarrassed and I could see it in her face but I acted as if nothing happened, simply saying hello. I then said, “I saw you walking down here and wanted to know if you wanted these bars?” She asked, “What are they?” I responded, “Some Clif bars; snack bars. Would you like them?” She said, “Sure, yes, thank you.” I set them on her bag, which was closer to me than her at the moment and asked her for her name. She told me her name and asked me for mine. We both smiled, and I told her to have a nice day as I walked away. The feeling that this caused me is something I want to experience more often. Sure, we can see today’s incident as small scaled, but getting a glimpse of that feeling makes me hungry for more.
I hope to see her around. I’d really like to get to know her.