Monday, 15 February 2016

India, a Country of Contrasts

I’m sitting in a Starbucks in one of the nicest neighbourhoods of Mumbai making time for my train to depart to Udaipur. I’m on my way back to Gajner, the new village where COM Team lives now. When I decided to come to India I knew that I was going to be working in rural villages and, when I arrived there I strangely felt at home. Rural India is not that different from rural Spain 50 years ago in some aspects. Obviously, cellphones didn’t exist back then and the villages were not entangled with wires everywhere, but washing clothes by the river is something that my mother used to do when she was a child. My grandma tells me all the time, “you better save money, you don’t know what could happen in the future, the world is getting worse and you may end up living like I did when I was young”. She was right, I’m living more or less like she did years ago, but thankfully the world is still in good shape or at least Spain is still what it was a year ago.

Housewarming party at Labu’s house

Now my experience here is coming to an end, a couple more days to go, and I am thinking about what I am going to tell people when they ask about India. “How was India? What does India look like?” I’m trying to prepare my answer in advance because, let’s face it, people will only ask you about your amazing experience once, maybe twice, but this incredible and life-changing experience won’t mean anything to them or anyone that hasn’t lived something similar. I had the chance to visit India as a tourist and as a local. I was two people here, the western woman that can dress and act as she wants, as a mere tourist, and the woman working in rural India where there is a complete different code of clothing and behaviour. It truly changes your perspective when you have been living in India and go to other cities as a tourist.

Thousands of people in their finery visit the Golden Temple each day

So going back to the original question…. How is India? India is the country of contrasts. Colourful and beautiful India, people say, and they are not wrong. Women wearing colourful dresses, Hindu temples combining as many colours as possible and lights, neon lights everywhere, in the bus, in the temples… Yes India is a country of lights and colours, but there is also a lot of darkness and dirt. You just have to look around to realize to what extent Mumbai and Delhi are cities of contrasts. For example, when you meet young women holding their babies and begging for food in a nice area full of expensive restaurants, or when you are walking around a fancy neighbourhood and you meet a woman carrying pieces of wood on top of her head for the fire. Yes, cities in India are a place of contrasts and within 100 meters you can see both sides of India, the rich and the poor. Inequality is alarming and not only in terms of wealth but also in terms of gender. Men can go wherever they want at any time of the day or night, but if you arrive home after the sunset your neighbour will let you know that “you are late”. Yes, that happened to me. 

Same street, two different scenarios, Chandni chowk, Delhi

These inequalities and contrasts made me come to India and to EduCARE, to try to do something to change it. I enjoyed my experience here and despite struggling with the slow Internet, which is the worst thing that can happen to you if you’re the Communications Coordinator and your entire work depends on it, I think I did my best for EduCARE and I will continue to do it from a distance. I enjoyed every second I spent in my village, in Maiti, especially with the girls from the community. We did Girls’ Club every Sunday and I hope they learnt something from me because I definitely did from them. Going back home is going to be difficult, India definitely changed me for good or for bad, I still have to judge it. But it definitely did and I am not the same person that came to India 6 months ago. I’ve grown up more than I imagined and that is what I was looking for.

Making dream catchers in Girls’ Club!

I am going to miss my EduCARE family, the children in the street shouting “hi” while waving their hands, the spicy food that it took me so long to get used to, the colourful dresses and especially my little family inside EduCARE, the COM Team, the girls that made my experience an amazing and unforgettable adventure.

It’s getting dark so I guess I should go home… or not?

My crazy lovely COM Team!

“Because it’s a lie that things are as they are; things are as we leave them to be. The world changes when we change and in order to do that we have to believe that change is possible, that is an act of faith, of courage, of compromise, of love”.

Laura Sabater – Spain

Communications Coordinator, Gajner (Rajasthan)

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