If my life were a garden, it would be full of brilliantly colored flowers, the sweet aromas of my memories, and all my favorite songs and sounds would float through the air. I gasp sometimes at how awesome life can be – sure I have my low points: times when the garden feels like a maze of dark thoughts which petrify me, but without this the flower petals might become dull in my mind. Speaking of my mind – it needs to slow down! I’m like a PC on the fritz…somebody needs to press ctrl-alt-delete and end some of the processes so I can function enough to deliver my messages.
you never know when a peacock may land at your gate…
a manihar man making lakh chuli (special bangles)
one of many bangle shops in a long alley near City Palace
Today I awoke from the loveliest dream, emerging from the depths of a cool turquoise lake into the sparkling sunlight of reality. I took another bucket shower, (yes, I’ve been sweating up a storm; yes I’ve been disgustingly dirty; no, I don’t mind…I’m on a mission to use as little water as possible) using hot water to warm myself in the early morning. After breakfast, Mary and I wandered to school. The weather was perfect: cloudy and cool—hardly broke a sweat. Our lead Hindi teacher (Sheila-ji of France) was absent today, but our native Hindi teacher (Harusch-ji) was a real treat acting as the head instructor, so I was quite pleased. We cut our Hindi lesson short for a field trip near City Palace, where the old Rajasthani rajas (kings) once lived. In fact, their descendants still occupy the palace, but their “royalty” is more for decoration than anything else – their main duty being to orchestrate festivals, parades, and the like. The purpose of our trip was to pick up our passports and registration papers from the Foreigners Registration Office as well as take a visit to see how churi (lakh bangles) are made. The FRO is located in the former temple of Shiva, the god of destruction – I found it a little ironic/comical that a government office decided to occupy that area. As a respect to Shiva, the FRO was recognizing this day as a tribute to him, so the office was temporarily shut down and we had to wait outside the gate until the ceremony ended. Standing around in a circle, we all got to talking and our intermediate level Hindi teacher, Rasheet-ji, brought up a very poignant message…
I’m sure you’ve heard by now of the riots taking place in London. From what I’ve heard (and please correct me if I’m wrong, I’d love for this to be a forum for discussion rather than a monologue) police brutality which resulted in the death of a young man has ignited the fire for revolt in the hearts and minds of the young, the oppressed, the disadvantaged. All it took was one little spark in this Western world where people felt they lacked opportunity to progress, and the streets were ablaze with violence. Not necessarily the best way to voice your opinion of injustice, but that’s the way history changes, sometimes it’s the only means for getting a response it seems.
In other places of the world, like in India as Rasheet-ji said, people have lived oppressed lives for centuries, waiting for change, dutiful in their birth-given positions, and hopeful that life would improve with patience and tolerance. In the last ten years, with the globalization of goods and information increasing at light speed, more social change has occurred here than in the last century altogether. Meaning those who are able to lift themselves up have been able to seek out better lives. And they’ve done it with mucho gusto – Indian intellectuals outshine their Western counterparts in mathematics, sciences, and even in the English language (read it for yourself!). My ninth grade host brother, Ayush, looks like a genius compared to me.
Of course, there are still rows of sleeping people lining the streets, poor health conditions and limited opportunities for the poor to become anything else. I’ve been researching NREGA, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act as part of my quest to find out why things are the way they are; the middle class here in Rajasthan seem to think that the poor beggars who line our streets aren’t truly poor – and perhaps they are correct. I’m sure there are people in much worse conditions as you travel further from the cities. You can read the act here or visit the website. But from what I’ve been reading about the it, there are a lot of loopholes that would keep rural workers from being able to get this menial wage for (only allowed 100 days of the minimum wage set in 1948 per family, regardless of family size) and even if they do, it doesn’t seem like enough for them to gain any kind of social leverage without adequate knowledge on HOW to do so. And many people might not even KNOW about the act if they are not literate, and then of course the act doesn’t even apply to inner city residents…only so many people can afford to send their children to school, and the competition for higher education is very high. You can certainly feel the tension if you look around, and there are definitely acts of “terrorism” committed by people who feel they are oppressed if you do your research. The world is a shrinking place, and every person wants a chunk of it to themselves (not everyone of course, there are those who don’t think that way)…but is there enough to go around? I think there is. Maybe not in the material sense – not everyone can have a hot shower every day of the week, not everyone can live like a movie star, and it’s simply not sustainable. But everyone can have enough to survive; food to eat, freedom to be spiritual, to be a healthy human. Easier said than done of course – I’m speaking ideally (yes…I’m a romantic idealist, I realize this) BUT if everyone practiced tolerance, patience, and planted seeds of kindness, then great trees of good would grow from it and the human race would be fruitful. I realize I’ve gone off on yet another rant…the point that Rasheet-ji brought up outside the FRO was that for the world to live in harmony, human beings need to find a balance. Everyone is racing towards the finish line like little kids in the egg-and-spoon race; you may get to the finish line first, but if you drop the egg you’ve lost. Everyone is trying to get to the top, but without finding harmony with others…
To me, finding that harmony with others starts with finding peace and balance in your own life. Sure, work, school, family, and friends may stress you out – you may fail sometimes, life may bring you down, and you may feel like no one cares about you, but YOU. What did you expect though? No one is going to pick you flowers every day. You have to make your own rose garden. Cherish all the things you do have (which if you’re reading this is probably a lot) and whenever you can, pick a flower from your garden and give it to someone else. Imagine what a sight to the see the world would be.
Other than that, I also had a friend from Minnesota visit me today, which was quite nice – Rama-ji insisted he stay for lunch and stuffed him full of curry, chapati, dal, rice, and ice cream before he left to catch his train ride to more adventures. After lunch my classmates and I booked our own train tickets to Jodhpur for this weekend. YAY! Our first little adventure outside Jaipur! We’ve have been excitedly looking for adventurous things to do – camel rides?! Champagne dinners in the desert!? Sleeping in tents on the rooftop of a hotel?! Whatever happens, I’m sure it’ll be another fulfilling experience. . . I feel bad sometimes, talking about all the fun things I’m getting to do…but you can do it too! All you have to do is have a dream and fight for it – that’s how India started for me!