Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Tolerance and Serenity of India

In Delhi we were able to see the familiar sites of Mahatma Gandhi’s home and site of his assassination, The War Memorial (India Gate) and the President’s house, as well as the Baha’i Lotus Temple. In Agra we visited, of course, the Taj Mahal. In Jaipur we visited the Amber Fort and rode elephants to the top, we rode rickshaws through the old “pink” city – including the Palace of Winds, watched a demonstration of Oriental rug dyeing and weaving, and visited a gem shop where we saw a demonstration of gem cutting and polishing. Throughout it all we were able to eat the most wonderful food in the world! The worst we had in the most depressing of eateries was absolutely superb. We couldn’t have been more pleased and sated.
However, because of the populations we encountered we also witnessed the extremes of poverty there. There were people living in hovels and shanties not much better off than the roaming animals living around them – cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, dogs and cats. I asked our Guide about them – living in abject poverty in the middle of bustling cities. He told me that India (over a billion people) was really two countries – urban and rural.
The urban India consists of about half of the population. It is moving forward while fighting all the typical “modern” calamities – smog, zoning, traffic and infrastructure issues that plague growing metropolitan areas. Rural India is backward, has resisted change, is culturally stuck 75 years ago, is untrusting of education and health care initiatives, and wants to remain existing as their forefathers did. But it isn’t working anymore. They cannot make a living. They no longer can totally exist in a rural barter economy. Their children will be less prosperous and sufficient than they. So, they are moving to the cities. Some have sold their meager farms to developers and, believing they are rich, move to the city to live a “life of luxury.” But they have absolutely no life skills for urban living. They spend most of their money on a down payment for a small house or condo with no idea that they have to make monthly mortgage payments. When those payments come due, they are bewildered and lose all they have recently acquired. Hence, the hovels and shanties we saw, as well as the begging and attempts to sell trinkets.
It was awful; it was fascinating. It was a living crucible of urban versus rural adaptation to a globalized economy in the Information Age. Although it was more stark and severe, it was a fuzzy, in-your-face mirror of the urban/rural divide we are seeing emerge here in the U.S.
However, many, if not most, of these impoverished displaced rural folks were also vendors plying their wares at every opportunity. Around the more famous tourist sites we saw permanent “gypsy” villages of clapboard shacks and shanties. They were attempting to be as clean as possible but they were relentless in their desire to have me part with a few coins in exchange for their trinkets. Some of the times I felt exactly as a piece of rotting meat must feel watching the flies begin to gather around.
Quite often there would be larger, more robust vendors who would push their way to the front to hawk their goods. I noticed, however, that the other vendors would simply move out of the way to wait their “turn” to get in front of me. Where was the anger? Where was the: “Hey, you, I was here first. What are you doing?” I tried to imagine this in New York, Boston, Chicago or Saint Louis. I couldn’t. There would be fistfights, shouting, shoving. A melee. Police would get involved. People would get hurt.
But not in the India I saw. Why?
They are a serene, gentle and accepting people. I think it is their heritage of Buddhism and Hinduism. They accept – they are aware without fear – without guilt for their circumstance. There was no evidence, as there is here, of a seething underbelly of hate, anger, resentment and fear. Their gentle acceptance was palpably evident – even amidst the throngs of vendors. I could “feel” it. I was impressed.
Last week in A Course In Miracles (ACIM) a Japanese lady who has recently joined our group mentioned that she was told, when she asked “What is ACIM?” that it was a course in Buddhist and Hindu principles couched in Christian language. That description really resonated with me – in light of what I had just experienced in India.
These observations and explanations helped me. I hope it is helpful to you as well.

#1 Oct 2016

Copyright 2016

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