Wednesday, July 25, 2012

India calling

I wish I had been better about blogging while in, or immediately upon returning from, India. Already the most of the memories have faded and only the ones that are documented with photos have been firmly implanted in my mind.

I wanted to be able to take every person I know on my journey, to be able to recall every single detail: every smell, every smile or stare from people in the slum, every heart racing car ride through the major cities. But I also know that there is no way I can put into words what I saw and felt because I have no context in which to place it.

I went to India, a land that, as one woman on the trip said, "was just a place on the map before." Seeing that land alone would have overwhelmed even the most seasoned traveler, I am convinced. But on top of that, I also saw a part that many would consider rude to talk about in polite Indian society; the slums, the Dalits, the poverty that was so extreme, yet so much a part of the country, that it wove in and out of even the most wealthy neighborhoods in a way that could not go unnoticed unless it were intentionally ignored.

How do I categorize this trip in my life? I have nothing else to compare it with. As my 10 days there drew to a close, I convinced myself that my journey would be a starting point, a foundation on which to build my life. Somehow, I thought, I would get back to India and make a difference. Either as a journalist or a missionary or a teacher, but the more days that wedge themselves between then and now, the less that thought seems like it could be a tangible reality.

I promised myself that I would make people care about what is happening over there. People who could, in turn, also make a difference. But now, I find it hard to even care myself. In a country that is so addicted to comfort, I am sadly, very content continuing on in my life as it was before India.

I can see friends and family, and even myself, growing tired of talking about India. And for that I feel like a failure. I have not been able to fully describe what I saw in order to get people to care. I am even beginning to doubt myself about what I saw. Is there really an entire group of people who are treated as garbage because of they fall outside of the caste system? How could it be that a country that is growing so rapidly in business and commerce could still hold on to such archaic ideas?

And then I find myself questioning how I, as a foreigner, could be qualified to pass such a judgement. Didn't I only spend 10 days there? How can I be informed enough about their culture to even be able to make such an observation? How do I know I wasn't just listening to the rants of some pseudo-political/religious NGO leaders?

But then I am faced with the images of the young men on the street corner who had a look that I had never seen on anyone's face before. They must have been close to my age, but they already looked as if they were facing death. Their lives had no value. Or the little girls who clung to my fingers in the slums, who I had to peel off my hands and place back with their parents before I could leave left. Or the old man who gratefully accepted the small piece of fruit from me as if it were a precious jewel.

This is desperation, this is hunger, this is heartbreak. And while I know that it exists in every shape and form in every corner of the globe, I saw how it takes exists in India. Now that I have seen that, I have a responsibility to God and those people that I may never see again to do something about it.

I just need to figure out exactly what that means.


  1. beautiful. and I'm not tired of hearing about India...

  2. Good! Cuz I'm just getting started!

  3. I keep wishing it were possible to sit down with you over coffee to talk this out. I've been feeling similar about my time in Jamaica, though I don't think Kingston hurts the way India does. At least it has a strong Christ undercurrent to keep it going, and India lacks that.

    But one strong impression I've come away with is this: I can't change the world, I can't change the way the less fortunate live, I can't change cultures...all I can really do is be Christ in whatever situation he puts me in. Because ultimately, it's His world to change, he just asks for our help. "What can I do" isn't really the question, then. The real question should be, "What do you want to do in me?"

    And if it's on your heart, never fear: he'll give you some answers.

  4. I just read your post about Jamaica and I agree! It sounds like we both had a pretty radical experience and I am glad that you reached out and left this comment.

    I love what said, that although we can't change the world, we can be Christ in whatever situation we are in. We will most likely not see the results of such an attitude, but in a world aching for Christ, that can be so powerful.

    That is a great question to ask about what He can do in me. Just reflecting briefly on that makes me smile because I know that He did something beautiful in my heart even if I think I'm not "doing" enough about what I've seen. I think the desire to "do" something great has overshadowed the desire to be someone great. And you're right, it's His world, not ours! He's just asking for our help.

    I can't wait to hear more about Jamaica!