This fellowship was my introduction to development work. Prior to coming to India in September, I had a vague understanding of what ‘development’ meant through lectures and readings assigned inside of the classroom and my minimal exposure while travelling here in 2015. My first post this year described my understanding of Banswara and the people that occupy this place similar to the understanding of a silhouette. Well, ten months later, I have eaten breakfast, lunch, and dinner with people here; I have celebrated holidays from Diwali to Eid with people here; and best of all I have simply sat in silence with people here. Truth be told though, I’m still not sure if I have colored in the silhouette. I am starting to think I don’t ever want to feel that I have completely understood a place or a person; while we still have questions we still have room to explore.
A dear friend and co-fellow gave me some cheeky and insightful advice during orientation. After a discussion on ethics, canons, and morals, he said to me “the political scientist in you wishes to think in a vacuum.” Upon observing my playful surprise in reaction to his comment, he kindly nudged me to “think about the way you think.” Well, my friend, I have taken your suggestion and have been fortunate enough to come to some understandings; perhaps the biggest one being that I shall continue to challenge the way I think as I march steadfast in the fight for social justice.
Following is a poem called Warmth I wrote earlier this year while reflecting on a wide variety of experiences in Banswara. As this fellowship wraps up, I find myself reaching out to it once again to remind myself of the energies I felt throughout the year. I feel a sense of conviction in working in this region of the world in the future and look forward to exploring ways to engage with communities in South Asia. This poem is a reminder, an ode, and most of all, a call to action to avoid complacency and judgement. As I continue my pursuits, I know I will continue reaching for this poem and memories from this experience to remind myself of some of the lessons I have been fortunate enough to learn.
The pavement blesses my naked feet.
My eyes seek reasons underneath.
What’s behind my vision even I don’t know,
For the light that shines is chosen glow.
When naked feet walk on sunburnt clay,
My insides squelch my own dismay,
For I’ve been taught that only privilege
can walk upon this way.
We sail across these warming seas
anxious hope running through our veins.
Ears to the ground for stories strangers keep,
We write about their frozen pains.
But just as frozen glaciers melt,
we feel not all that strangers felt.
There’s no such thing as empathy.
There’s no such thing as empathy!
Hope is a stone that needn’t be lost,
Dive into the silence and do not gloss
over the flora and fauna which may seem simple
to the brow that’s furrowed and to the eyes that twinkle.
Sit in the silence and be with people.
Let production not drive the machine-driven mind.
Go your own way, question what you’re given.
You may be surprised with what you find.