A Day of Contrast – May 13th

May 13th, 2014

Today was our first cultural emersion experience into the Indian culture. Our day was structured around visiting the TATA Institute and sharing a meal with local Indian families. To outline our experiences, I will share a list of contrasts that we have witness and participated in.

Sleeping pills vs. watching others sleep: While some were sleeping soundly last night, others hardly slept at all (Sarah).

Hot vs. cold showers: Some were able to discover how to flip a switch in the shower for hot water while others did not.

Air-conditioned bus vs. humidity: While our group comfortably rode on a tour bus with water bottles in hand, we watched people on the streets start their day in the humidity, without any access to air-conditioning and limited access to water.

Ocean vs. sea vs. bay: Yes, we were confused for a little bit.

Skyscrapers vs. slums: In many ways, India is balancing on a fine line between new development and deep poverty. As our group rode the bus this morning, we could be looking at a slum at one minute and a new skyscraper the next.

Elevators vs. stairs: Well, some of us may have had some trouble climbing the stairs at the TATA Institute. Others may have had some trouble working elevators during the home visits.

High caste vs. low caste: Some Indians are born into a higher caste while others are born into a lower caste. The caste system is not flexible or fluid—people cannot move up or down a caste. It was interesting to hear that in school, some children are “assigned” to seats according to their caste — even though the caste system was abolished after their Independence from Britain in 1946.

Commercial vs. personal prostitution: Commercial prostitution is illegal in India and is when a person is living off of the prostitution of an individual. On the other hand, personal prostitution is legal and is when a person is living off the prostitution of his or herself.  I know it is confusing, and may be a reason why they don’t successfully prosecute for human trafficking in India.

Creating a law vs. enforcing one: While India has these laws in place against commercial prostitution and human trafficking, there has never been a case where a male is prosecuted for prostituting a woman. Rather, women are prosecuted frequently — kind of a double standard, and very hard to understand.

Arranged vs. love marriages: During our home visits with local families, many of us saw and heard of the differences between these two different types of marriages. An arranged marriage is where the parents choose a spouse for their child. A love marriage is where the child is allowed to choose their partner, for the sake of love. During my first family visit, I met a 21-year-old woman who planned on receiving an arranged marriage. Any parents reading this, your daughters aren’t to keen on this idea.  However, from a cultural perspective, we gained a deeper understanding and greater compassion of how and why this occurs.

2 meals vs. clogging (the dance): While some of us received two delicious meals, others spent their time clogging.

Lastly, the greatest contrast that stuck out for me was the deep appreciation for human connection and spending time with one another vs. impersonal relationships that are often interrupted with busy lives. We are all busy. However, today reminded me how to appreciate the possibility to bridge cultures and to appreciate my time with others.

Ali Marti

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