Being in India as I write this newsletter, has brought to my attention how spoiled I have been most of my life. I say that because since being here I have seen a different side of life, one which has shown me how fortunate I have been most of my life. There was a time in the 1980’s when I had nothing and lost my home, and most of what I considered then, my belongings, furniture etc., this time lasted for 5 years, but I certainly had government assistance, albeit small, and I had people around me who helped me get through it. In the USA I had a nice home, and all the appliances to fit into that nice home. I also had a cleaning lady who came in once a week and with her appliances, cleaned my house so spotless, I swear I could have eaten off the floor.
Here in India, we have a man who comes in to do the cleaning 3 times a week, he uses a “swatch” as a broom, which is a bit like a broomstick, made of twigs; it sweeps the floor, but mostly puts the dirt back where it was. I think if we asked him to use a vacuum cleaner, he would not know how to use it, he is used to doing it the way he has done it for years. People stand at the roadsides selling everything from old used shoes (and people buy them) to flowers, fruit and food. I often wonder how many customers they get each day and if they make a living.
The sides of the roads are strewn with rubbish, and it is not strange to see pigs, cows, men and women rummaging through the rubbish looking for food, and for the humans, things they can recycle and sell. I can see some of you saying “Ugh,” but that is India, they know nothing else, and like the Indians, we also no longer see this when we go out for a drive or to the shop; it no longer bothers us as it did. At most major intersections there are beggars pleading for help, selling trivialities or children begging. Outside one supermarket we frequent, one day, was a child no more than 8 years old who said “Oh you look like my Grandmother” in the hope those words would soften me to give her money.
The shopping Malls are amazing, all the latest clothes, shoes, produce etc., Starbucks have just opened up in India, as have most major USA retailers. Outside the Malls, it is like it is at the side of the road, rubbish is everywhere, and I have never seen so many people standing around just waiting for I know not what, but there are a lot. The poverty outside the Malls in close proximity is abject and so sad to see.
In our apartment we are in now, there is no oven, just a gas cook top with three gas burners and an electric one., the fridge looked as if it came from a third world country, we have to dry our clothes on the balcony and in the apartment lounge room overnight. In our new apartment, we do have a stove and a washer with a dryer, so no more drying outside.
Despite not having the amenities and luxuries we had in the USA, we cope here and we have adjusted very easily to the lack of luxuries we were used to in our home overseas. India IS changing, WE are changing, we who have had it so good for so long. It is actually making us less materialistic, the Indian people are so wonderful, friendly and supportive, even if they do not speak English, they will find someone around them who can.
We are humbled by what we see on a daily basis, and feel so blessed we got to see another side of life. One I would consider to be better! Of course that would be open to each person to debate, but for me personally, I AM humbled and so grateful for the experience. Would I go back to the luxuries I had, you bet I would, but I am in India now, and as one who is living here, I LIVE here, and do not keep complaining of what I used to have. I am living a wonderful adventure, it is an education of the finest caliber, I love it!
by Margaret McElroy