I came to India with the mentality that I’m not here to change India, but India will change me. Keep an open mind, but more importantly keep an open heart. The recognition that I will not change the world is an important one, but remembering that in your day to day life is much easier said than done. Keep an open mind, keep an open heart- again something that is easier said than done.
I’ve been in Ahmedabad for six weeks now and slowing the bubbles are starting to burst around my head. In retrospect, I can say though I may have had a slightly better understanding of what it means to do service work in a developing world, I’m no more enlightened than the person next to me. I’d heard the stories and was on hand aware of what to expect, but the story is completely different when you’re the main character.
I’m so surprised, yet not surprised that I got caught up in the traps. Well maybe they aren’t traps, but necessary steps that every NRI has to go through. It takes more than just knowledge of what is likely to happen to come out of a mentality and way of thinking that we have been trained in.
Bubble number 1: India is not the US or Canada
Well duh.. no brainer right. In the N. America, we work on an external clock- deadlines, due dates, etc. In fact, as Indians we often complain about IST and get frustrated with it, though we all follow it… tyranny of the majority is our justification. Everything in India works on a much slower pace. It simply takes longer to get things done. For someone who is used to deadlines, likes to get things done and over it-this is a slightly difficult concept to become okay with.
Organization is not everything. A lot of work that I have been involved with isn’t formally structured. People kind of flow and things get done. But from an outsider perspective there is a lack of efficiency, etc. It takes some clarity of mind and untraining of the mind to recognize that there is some rhythm and organization to the seemingly unstructured flow.
It’s a very difficult process to untrain the mind. There are ties when I wonder if I am seeing things in certain ways because of my North American background or because there actually is something wrong. Slowly I’ll learn. As a person who likes to do, its been a challenging process to simply look, listen and learn, but as with any change in behaviour, etc, this is my sadhna. It is a practice that will take time.
There is a really awesome practice at MS that on someone’s birthday, we talk about that person’s gunas or positive attributes. I could see how it would be a challenging process on the part of the birthday person to make sure that the conversation does not inflate one’s ego. The process is not for that person. The process is a space to reflect and think about what one has learned from that person and to share that with others. With the people we see every day, work with all the time, it can be easy to forget to recognize what we are learning from them so this provides that space. In addition each person learns different things from the same person. We each share a personal and unique interaction and this is a space to share those experiences. I have found this process really powerful. Sahil was here for 6 weeks or so, I got a chance to interact with him for about 3 weeks. It wasn’t as if we had hours long conversations, but I still learned from him and I didn’t recognize that really until we spoke about him when he was leaving. As others shared what they learned, I thought about it and realized what I had learned. Sahil is really good at adjusting. I didn’t know this, but while he was MS, he never complained to other people, he just went with the flow and did stuff. He shared some of his frustrations with me, but not with MS staff. He adjusted to the culture at MS. Until other MS shared their experiences, I didn’t realize how much he adjusted, thus I learned from Sahil how to manage expectations and adjust. Anjali- I had only known her for a few days when it was her birthday, but already I had learned a lot from her. Bhaskar’s birthday was a few days ago and again the sharing was so powerful. You really get insight into people and are reminded again of how cool each person is, which sadly can be something that we can forget.
Bubble 2: Subconcious desire to skip the difficult steps that come between where I am know and who I want to become
Sounds weird and is sort of difficult to explain. I am surrounded by people who exude pure love. They are well on the path to knowing themselves and being present at all times. I want to shed agyan and negativity and be in state of constant harmony, but you can’t just get there in an instance. It’s a process that involves a lot of suffering after all suffering is for the purification of the soul. It takes effort and practice. No matter what I know or say, until I go thru the trials and tribulations which are inevitable, I won’t really understand and knowledge will remain knowledge and not become wisdom.
Plenty of other bubbles are bursting. The process is well underway.
It’s amusing on one hand to see how quickly I can fall back into old habits and thought patterns. Literally at one point, I was thinking, I could change this place around. That’s when someone had to come and ask me: did you come to change an organization, did you come to change people or did you come to change yourself? I had entered this spiral that veered off the path of truth which I have set out upon and forgot one of the things that the preamble to my blog says. Luckily I am surrounded by people who will guide me on my path. For their guidance, watchful eye, I am utterly thankful. Truly blessed to have so many around who care and will/are shining beacons for me when I get lost in the darkness.