Complacency is rampant in the United States. It largely stems from ignorance, or from living so comfortably that you can’t be bothered (or don’t dare) to question the status quo. In India, complacency is just as rampant, but it’s also a conscious choice.
It took me some time, but I’ve completely mastered the art of not looking too closely. When I first arrived, I focused on the little things on the ground as I walked, because I was used to finding crunchy leaves, snails, and pennies. Instead, I found a lot of spit, shit, and carrion. I’ve blurred my vision and gradually pushed reality to the corner of my eye, because I grew tired of staring at destitution.
There’s a social worker inside me, looking worried and feeling betrayed.
Far above the stray dogs with broken tails, I work in an ivory tower, which looks rather a lot like a sober Soviet block. It was not until we piloted data collection that I realized that the plans we conceptualize up on the 4th floor are being carried out on the ground by real human beings.
A week ago, we trained 13 surveyors, who called me “ma’am” and expected me to know what I was talking about. My first day with the surveyors I stayed busy and distracted, but by the end of the second day, my heart grew heavy. Akshay and I were out monitoring surveyors while they measured street lighting at night. As I watched two grown men conduct the survey, using a methodology I’d helped design, on roads I’d blindly picked on a map, I felt like a child who had been taken too seriously.
For a few days after the pilot, I was suspended in mid-air, unable to understand why I had been granted this much responsibility. With a lot of help from a lot of different people, my feet have touched the ground again. I’m taking small steps now, adjusting to this weight while trying not to be crushed by it.
To the worried social worker inside me, I am still you. I will stop feeling so comfortable and start seeing it all again. This bout of complacency has to go, and there’s no better place than this city to chase it out of me.