Fragility, Scarcity, Purpose, Love.
It has been hard for me to write. It has been hard for me to gather my thoughts, to put into words what is best remain untold; what is too great to be explained. I guess this a great way of starting this blog. I want to make myself clear: My feelings are deep and vague. Contradictory. Constantly changing, evolving. Shapeless.
“How is India going?” is a question that, although not necessarily new – “How is Armenia going?” comes as often as “How are you doing?” – has shown to be of greater difficulty than any other one.
Answering to “How is India going?” is as hard as writing my first blog. I do not want to rush. I do not like first impressions. They are meaningless and full of prejudice. They do not accurately depict the truth, the magic, that ought to be lived and never only spoken of. However, people care, and I feel the responsibility of sharing my experience with the ones that helped make this possible.
Pos Tenebras Lux.
Fragility. Had I not been warned before, would I have had a big cultural shock. Being a woman in India has shown to be one of the hardest challenges I have ever faced in my life. As a white European woman, I struggle living under the constant default sexualizing model created on my behalf. I struggle with presenting myself to men as Joana, and not as a foreign woman whose values allow them to escape from the conservative reality they impose upon their own wives. It is hard for me as a bystander to witness the mismatch between what is preached to Indian women as an acceptable behaviour and what is actually sought for in the Internet, late at night, by the same men. It is hard to be stared at with such intensity. It is hard to be told not to smile back at any man. It is hard, when one’s personality and way of interacting with the ones around clashes with a foreign cultural reality that is to be respected.
Scarcity. A word I had learnt in my Economics textbook in high school, that appeared in my life sudden and unapologetically. In the context of India, however, scarcity was not only shown as the ‘limited availability of resources’. More than that, and of far greater significance, scarcity came as a mindset. A way of living, a way of thinking: Growing up with little, one becomes accustomed to a lack of access to and availability of precious resources. I came to understand this when I was told by the teacher I work with that the school in which we work is equipped with new, wireless speakers as well as hundreds of donated books – both never to be used. After asking why, since the beginning of school is often delayed due to the time setting up the speakers for the morning assembly, the answer came long and complicated. “Scarcity as a mindset” – the fear of getting accustomed to things that come easily; the fear of one day losing what is there and not knowing how to overcome; the fear of growing comfortable. The principal of the school does not want to show her students how things can be done easily and efficiently. Instead, she shows how in scarce environments one should not fight the elements, but work hard to benefit from them. This topic left me wondering about the true consequences of foreign aid, in which cultural understanding is often undermined.
Purpose. “Joana Didi, why didn’t you come to school yesterday? I missed you.” I swallow the nothingness of my words. I was in the police station doing my registration, actually. But that is of no importance. What is important is, that already have I began noticing how my students have become accustomed to me and my presence in the classroom. Although such might be considered great, it also leaves me with an unsettling feeling. I am here now, and for the next months. One day, however, I will pack my bags and go. I came to this experience completely aware that the true impact would be held within myself. I knew, from the start, that the little time I will get to spend in India will not allow much more than a drastic shift in my soul and in my future. But what is, after all, the impact I am having in these kids? Is my presence significant? How can the five hours I spend with them daily ever give me a significant grasp of who they are as individuals? What happens to them once they leave school, how are their homes like? A big part of my arrival in India and the beginning of my apprenticeship has been one of purpose finding. How can I give the most purpose to what I have set myself to? How can I transcend the limitations naturally imposed on me in this harsh environment – such as language, cultural differences, being a woman – and flourish?
Love. Perhaps the hardest one to talk about. Love, the cause of all good and bad things. Since coming here I have experienced the difficulties that emerge when two people make promises. “The Peaceful Warrior” taught me that one of the keys for happiness is to accept that nothing stays the same forever. Love. The reason why I stayed up two hours longer than my body would wish for the other night, as a good friend explained how the love of her life stopped loving her back. Love. The reason why we wake up at 6 AM in the morning, even though we are tired and the dogs-didn’t-stop-barking-the-entire-night and three-mosquitos-were-throwing-a-party-around-the-room. Love. Realizing that one truly needs to find oneself before finding someone else. Love. The one thing that sets you free, but also sets you back. Pulls you up and drags you down. The wish for a future, the planning. The “I hopes”, the “no longers”, the “If onlys”. We all suffer from love in the same ways. We all hurt. Love has been a constant in my time in India. I am afraid this is as far as I can talk about this matter.
Pos Tenebras Lux. These are some of the issues I have been struggling with recently. They are always there, just beneath the surface. Always on the back of my mind, craving to be explored, deepened, solved. I wish I could take it easier on myself sometimes. It’s hard here, in this far-away land. When I try really hard, I can still look around and understand how this is all so very surreal. Day by day, however, the familiarity grows stronger and the overwhelming sensation seems to calm down. I have realized I do not wish that to happen. I want to be overwhelmed, small, insignificant, uncomfortable all days of my life.
Pos Tenebras Lux means After Darkness, Light. Darkness refers to all of the suffering, dilemmas, heart-breaking situations I have come to experience here. It refers to the sleepless nights, restless days, heart-breaking walks from school, hard phone calls that I have had. Light refers to me becoming enlightened:
Yes, darkness does indeed exist! My scream for surrender is powerful not only as it wishes Darkness didn’t exist, but also because it recognizes the existence of such! I am being exposed to social issues I was previously not aware of, but am today. This is Light in its purest form. Becoming aware. Awakening not to what you want for the world, but for what the world wants from you.
Mom, Dad, don’t worry about me.