Saturday, August 23, 2008

Denouement: thoughts about India trip and the need to grow out of selfishness

Now that I'm back in Brooklyn (and not only back, but on the verge of a move within the borough -- as I type, all my stuff is in boxes awaiting the movers!) and about to start the next semester of grad school, I've been thinking a lot about this short India trip. On one hand I am so glad to have broken through the invisible barrier of setting myself apart from the poverty, or rather the inequality that I always see when I visit but in the past have done nothing about. Even now, I cannot say I have done anything about it. What did I do? Just go attend a class being held in a Mumbai basti by a couple of idealistic teachers who are doing and giving that which I idealize and yet am too weak and mired in my own selfishness to give and do.

This going to the Down to Earth class was just a dip of the toe into the pool, just a tiny percentage of the time I spent in India. The majority of my time was spent enjoying the luxuries of shopping, eating, and lolling about in air-conditioned environments at posh houses of family friends. Not only that, but I was pretty selfish even in that posh environment. I was traveling with my father, but I resented having to always be there for him. In the past he's had a tendency to expect to be served, but this time, he is older, weaker -- he genuinely needed help. It's not that I didn't help him, but there was a side of me that resented this intrusion into "my India trip." And so I often escaped under the guise of shopping or hanging out with friends, when he would have benefited from more company during this tiring journey.

All in all, I cannot say I am satisfied with myself or my behavior. Yes, a small inching forward in terms of a different mindset of service, to some tiny degree. But then a huge backlash of selfishness accompanying it, not to mention returning with loads upon loads of fancy clothes and other shopping that I don't really need. You might say I'm being hard on myself, but am I? I don't think so... I read somewhere once that when given the chance to spend money or time, one should always choose to spend it on experiences versus things. And I think that while I have endeavored in that direction in this trip, it was a bit of a teetering effort, with many failures. Perhaps the backlash was because the monkey mind got scared of this new direction? I don't know... I just know that I hope to remember this feeling of disappointment I have in myself right now, so that I don't repeat the same mistake in the future.

And now, I should go, as the movers will be here any minute.

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