Wednesday, October 19, 2005

intense longing...

it's been 119 hours since we got back to california and i can safely say that i have spent at least 100 of them missing india. even in my sleep. i've dreampt of exploding lotus fireworks in pinks, purples and greens. when i close my eyes before bed, bursts of memory flash in front of my lids reminding me of the food vendors, animals, peeling paint and bright saris.

gate to private residence, kailash colony, new delhi

shoppers at dilli haat, new delhi

transportation of choice, new delhi

village women, east of fatepuhr sikri

19 year old silk vendor at dilli haat, new delhi

lime soda vendor outside of chadni chowk, new delhi

pedicab, new delhi

goat, fatepuhr sikri

sweet potatoes at jonpath, new delhi

paddle boats at delhi gate, new delhi

last night as i walked del through my almost unbearably quiet neighborhood, a distinct fragrance enveloped me, and mixed with the exhaust of a very late school bus, emulated the ubiquitous scent of delhi...spice and pollution.

i went back to work on monday and was faced with a challenge: teaching 90 high school students about restorative justice and the juvenile justice system when really all i wanted to do was set up my slideshow of photos, settle into my comfy armchair and drink chai. luckily the students were freshman and i always appreciate their naivete and enthusiasm. they wanted to know about india, how different it is from the US and whether i liked it. i told them of the poverty, the animals, the pollution, the rich history and architecture. i told them that you can't drink the water unless it comes from a sealed water bottle, that excursions are often planned around finding a bathroom, and that ordering food is an adventure when you only know that 'aloo' means potato and 'matar' green peas. i told them that not only did i like india, i fell in love with all its complexities. i told them that the experience had profoundly changed my concept of privelege...that even the most destitute people in our community have no idea what it's like to be poor in india. i told them that even though they might not have the coolest tshirts from hot topic, that they have more clothes than some children in india could ever dream of having. before my trip, i may have looked at some of those very students and thought, 'these kids live below the poverty level'. but after india, all i could see were incredibly healthy and fortunate people who will eat today.

it was hard to teach and stay on task when really all i wanted to say was, 'who cares about these issues...people are DYING on the sides of the road from starvation...children are begging in traffic with bloody stumps for hands and huge scars marring their faces!' in contrast, improving the justice system doesn't seem nearly as urgent anymore.

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