What I know of India is superficial at best- it consists of happy exotic bits of music, literature, stories, samplings of food and of course Bollywood. I’ve always been interested in India at a safe distance- fascinated by it’s rich and storied culture through my dynamic relationship with my friends from India and curious about it’s historical landscape through the colorful lens of film and narrative of literature. However, now that I’ve been awarded the opportunity to explore and expand on what I ‘think’ I know- I’m expecting to be assaulted by the fact that I know next to nothing about the ways of life here and have everything to learn.
Before arriving so much of my own curiosity and blissful excitement was ambushed by the opinions and warnings of others. Some of it welcome, some of it disconcerting and much of humbling. In short- lower your expectations. In my mind I likened it to how people view Africa. A vast and large continent with amazing landscape, history, culture, art and wealth that has influenced and impacted so much of history and yet is so divisive in modern discourse on many fronts. A place that is arguably great and quite misunderstood…
Someone remarked to me in conversation before my departure that since I’ve, “worked and lived in Kinshasa… New Delhi will be nothing new…”
New Delhi, India, Life, living…it’s never for nothing and it can never be simply stated.
Since arriving there are already similarities in the maddening and jaunting chaos existing in the heavily trafficked streets of New Delhi with the expanding urban jungles of Lagos, Kinshasa and I might dare say ….New York City. Minutes fly by and time management feels like a hopeful suggestion. Rickshaws, motorbikes, bicycles, buses, and cars zoom in every which direction honking noisily along the way under veils of dust and pollution with the occasional large horned cow or stray dog pack meandering about in the discombobulating mix. After my exhaustive week long orientation cocoon of arrival gaiety and giddiness I’ve been thrust into the unsettling ongoing traffic that seems to musically score life here in New Delhi. Finding my bearings, feeling comfortable or being settled already feels like very loaded phrases when they escape my lips or enter my mind for that matter.
But I’m here for the work I will do with the Centre for Social Research, a women’s research and advocacy group based in New Delhi, and endeavor to make my experience just that- an experience. I want my time here to be meaningful, I want the learning to be mutual in my work and in turn I want it to be impactful or at the very least instructive for the communities I will be working with. In short- I won’t be lowering my expectations but raising them because any work done on empowering and enabling the work of women is a step forward and ultimately I’m looking forward to working in that direction.