Saturday, May 30, 2015

Days 21 & 22 in Delhi: "You're never alone in India."

29 & 30 May 2015:  Yesterday, the 29th, was relatively uneventful with work and studies, but I got to have a fun night with my neighbor, so that was great.  Then today, I went to the Craft Museum and to Old Fort with a friend, both of which were awe-inspiring, and the conversation was very enjoyable.  My friend got me thinking about many different things, including appropriation of culture versus the compliment that might be borrowing from what you love about different cultures (in reference to my desire to wear a bindi, among other things), the oroborous, or the snake with its tail in its mouth, and what I want to take away from my experience in India, personally.  The first and the last of these three topics are sort of connected, and as far as cultural appropriate or misappropriation is concerned, the reason I want to wear the bindi is because I think it's beautiful but also because my coworker/friend was telling me about inner balance and finding one's center and how the bindi can represent your center or inner balance.  On that note, what I would like to take away from my experience in India, or at least what I've noticed so far, is the idea of being centered in myself and at my core.  The idea that things are whirling around the one focal point that is the being or the self seems to appear a lot here, whether it be in the culture, the art, the language, or anything else, and I would like to learn how to be centered in myself and the present moment.  I want to learn to be the object to which the subject and verb come in a sentence, to represent the strength and centeredness of the bindi, to stand in the present, where kal is today and tomorrow and everything circles around the now.  That is what I hope to learn, although I think it might be lofty.  I guess I've just always known in my mind that there is only the present and there is no sense living anywhere but here and now, but I had yet to internalize it until I came to India.  I think I might actually be learning to internalize and live the concept because I have no other option here.  Also, I think the oroborous fits in there somewhere, but I'm not quite sure how to explain that part.

Here are some pictures of me at the Craft Museum and Old Fort.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Day 20 in Delhi: Another day in paradise

28 May 2015:  Today was a pretty normal day--work and school and more work and more school--but I got to Skype with one of my closest friends, so that was an amazing upside to the day!  I also did some interesting work for a leadership training conference coming up at work, so that was interesting.  Oh, and I took a trip to the Egypt Embassy, which was an adventure of sorts.  Other than that, not much to report, so here are some pics of a cute truck and me on my porch.

Day 19 in Delhi: The economics of corporate responsibility

27 May 2015:  I'm writing for yesterday because I was so busy I didn't have time, which is definitely a good thing.  In the morning, I went to the "National Consultation to End All Forms of Forced Labour in the Garment Sector," which was fascinating, and I only wish I could have stayed for the entire day.  It was a discussion on the mistreatment of people, especially youth and young girls, in the textile industry, and it was a problem-solving sort of conference about how to go about fixing these major issues.  The common topics I think most people know about were brought up, like the sexual harassment and abuse, the low wages, if any at all, and the unsafe working conditions.  I don't mean to mention these flippantly at all; I just know these are commonly part of the discourse so I don't feel the need to go into detail.  The conference focused on India, its existing legislation, and the failures of implementation of that legislation.  The panel I got to witness discussed the issues on a local level, but throughout the day, the conference was going to slowly expand from the local to the national to the international in terms of responsibility, accountability, and implementation, among other things.  Basically, everyone, on some level, is responsible in some respect, and while the "top" of this food chain might be the big brands and corporations, the "bottom," besides the survivors and workers in the industry, consists of the community, NGOs, and civil servants.  The solution, as far as I could gather from what I saw, seemed to be a sort of push from the bottom approach.  If the community pushes the NGOs who push the local governments who push the state governments, and so on and so forth until you reach the UN, trade agreements, and international corporations/brands, maybe we can effectuate some change in the garment industry.  One thing they touched on was that they are not trying to eliminate the industry but simply regulate it with minimum working standards, which seems incredibly fair to me.  

One very interesting question one attendee had was whether we have failed to develop the economic argument in favor of regulation, minimum wages, age restrictions, etc.  I thought this was an incredibly poignant question, and one of the speakers even admitted that yes, he believes while we have developed the human rights argument, the sociopolitical argument, and many others, we have failed to develop an economic argument, and in my opinion, this is the most important kind of argument because if big corporations are the ones we eventually want to convince, I think we are naive to expect them to accept social responsibility and ethical practices based on mere morals and some sort of corporate conscience.  I think it would be much more effective to find a way to engage in the economic discourse and convince multi-national corporations why it would be economically beneficial for them to institute the regulations for which we are asking.  But of course, as blogs go, this is just my opinion.

In the afternoon, I returned to the office and did some work, then attended class, and then had the opportunity to go to a friend's birthday party.  I was very impressed with myself because I found the place on my own, without any help, and without really getting lost at all!  Small victories are what matters in this world.  The party was so much fun, and it felt really good to socialize and dance and let loose a bit.  I still have anxiety at night, but I seem to be overcoming it, finally.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Day 18 in Delhi: Hashtag blessed.

26 May 2015:  Today was amazing and helped cure a lot of my homesickness from yesterday.  I had an amazing day with my friend because we had some work outside of the office, which gave us a chance to chat for a really long time about a million fascinating topics.  My brain was racing in a million different places, getting challenged this way and that with new ideas and old and many in between.  It was a fascinating conversation that took loops and turns through feminism and marriage, around cultural divides and racism, over pop culture and dress, under spirituality and reincarnation, and in and out of a ton of other poignant topics that left my mind spinning in the best of ways and thirsting for more challenging conversations like this one.  It really was a beautiful thing.

Then after work, I met up with another friend, with whom I also had some amazing conversations about politics and friendships, and yet again, I felt myself craving these strong connections and thirsting for more intriguing conversations with people who challenge me.  I am very lucky and thankful to have met so many people here who challenge me, make me think, and teach me new things.  I feel very at peace with myself and the world around me today, and I have the people around me to thank for that.

Now it's time to do my homework, but I don't even feel bummed about it because my spirit is full of energy.  Oh, and also, speaking of friends, but this time friends who are far from me but still so close to my heart, here is a totally adorable picture my longest and one of my dearest friends just sent me today to end the day on such a beautiful note.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Day 17 in Delhi: Another beautiful day to be in Delhi.

25 May 2015:  Not much new to report today, mostly work and school, but I had a nice talk with my friend at work today about the difference between Hindi as a way of life and other religions, like Christianity, as a religious or spiritual practice.  She was saying she was never raised to do certain things like pray everyday, but it was more like a way of thinking or a philosophy.  I think that's a much more palatable and understandable way to look at religion, and it reminds me yet again of why I'm always drawn to Hinduism as a philosophy based on my aversion to religious practices.  I was raised Christian, and I still think the Bible is a beautiful book with incredibly important teachings.  But I was also very into the practice for a very long time, and the whole time I would do my devotionals everyday and go to Sunday school and pray to God, I always struggled with what it all really meant.  How was I actually "walking in Jesus" by writing in a journal and reading a book?  It wasn't until I walked away from it all for a little while and then came back to spirituality with a fresh perspective that I realized I didn't learn how to "walk in Jesus," in other words to follow the wise and simple teachings of loving one another, until I walked away from Jesus, so to speak.  I'm talking in circles now, but I guess all I'm saying is any religion or spiritual practice or believe should always be a way of thinking and a way of life that is a part of everything you do and think and say first and foremost, and the "practice" is only secondary.

That being said, all I've done today is work, homework, and knit, so I'm not sure what I'm even talking about.  I'm feeling very homesick today, so I'm really thankful for my friend who lives in my building coming to keep me company on my porch for a while tonight.  If there's one thing that's true for everyone, it's that human beings, much like apes, are a relational species, and we don't do nearly as well on our own.  I'm missing everyone back home so much, but then again, it's another beautiful day to be in Delhi.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Day 16 in Delhi: The oroborous of Hindi

24 May 2015:  Today was a really nice, relaxing Sunday.  I slept in a little bit, and I'm finally feeling 100% better so I went to the market and did some real grocery shopping for the first time since I've been here.  I cooked myself some delicious rice and veggies too, but nothing too spicy to let my stomach chill for a bit.  Then I did homework because that's what Sundays are for, but it didn't take me as long as I expected, so I even got to have some Hindi lessons!  I found an amazing teacher and friend who taught me a lot today.  What I found the most interesting was the fact that the Hindi language is very similar to Hindi religions in that there is no beginning or end and it all works in a cycle.  For example, the day for tomorrow and yesterday ("kal") are the same word, and all depends on the tense of the verb because there is no technical beginning or end so it all depends on where you're standing in the sentence, so to speak.  This reminded me of one of my favorite images--the snake eating its tail--or the oroborous.  My friend Brittanee and I are really into this image and hope to use it for our non profit some day, and I love how it keeps popping up in my life wherever I go.  A good friend told me once that coincidences are the universe winking at you, and I definitely felt a strong wink today.  ;)  I find it very beautiful that the cultural of religion and spirituality are so tied up in the sentence structure and language, and I can't wait to learn more about that.  I like a culture that uses the same word for the past and the present, and it got me thinking about life and death and all that's in between and how it's all connected and related and it is only different based on our perspective.  If I am looking back, it is yesterday, if I am looking forward it is tomorrow, but no matter what, it is kal.  I'm not sure where I'm going with that, but I'll figure it out eventually.  For now, I'm just excited to learn more about this beautiful language that is Hindi.  An added benefit is that I will finally learn how to negotiate with auto drivers, which will really help me get around this crazy city!

Oh, and I knit a (sort of cabled) cozy for my coffee mug and a new necklace today.  See pictures below!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Day 15 in Delhi: Easy adventures

23 May 2015:  I feel significantly better today, thankfully, so I got to meet a new friend who will be giving me Hindi lessons as well as teaching me about some of the history and culture of India and Delhi.  Lesson 1:  the Lotus Temple!  I really appreciated this temple because in a place that seems full of varying religious sects, this one did not ascribe to any one in particular but rather honored any and all so anyone of any religion could go into the temple and honor their own god there.  It was a beautiful place of worship, and I'd like to visit there more often.  I also learned a little bit more about Shiva and Vishnu and some of the cultural gods and goddesses of India.  There are so many I think I will be learning about them forever, which is a good thing.  I had some great conversation, enjoyed some delicious Indian lemonade, and even felt good enough to eat some sweets!  I started getting exhausted, though, so I decided more rest was needed and went home for a while.

In the evening I went with friends to this Modi protest event, where they discussed many pros and cons of the Modi administration.  Because I know very little about India politics, that was very interesting and informative.  Unfortunately, half of what I saw was in Hindi so one of my friends graciously translated it for me.  Then I started feeling tired again and decided I needed to take it easy so I went home.  It was quite a struggle getting the auto drive to understand where I lived, and it just reminded me that knowing some Hindi, of which I will hopefully be learning more, will be very beneficial in terms of getting around.  It was incredibly frustrating, and all would've been solved if I had just been able to communicate with my driver in his language.  Also, I need to know my way around better, but Delhi is huge and very confusing so who knows how long that will take me.  Oh well, overall it was an amazing, adventure-filled day!  Below are pictures of the Lotus Temple.