Sunday, December 16, 2007


If I were asked to describe India, I would say that it is a land of contradictions. From extreme wealth to extreme poverty. From the best to the worst of human nature.

I claim no great insight or understanding of India or it's people. I can only say what I think, which is naturally coloured by my own life experience.

On the one hand, I have been received the most amazing kindness and hospitality from almost complete strangers. Random people off the street and rickshaw drivers have gone out of their way to protect me and look out for me.

On the other hand, some of the issues I have come across here have included women who have been beaten, poisoned and abused by their husbands because they have failed to produce a son or they are simply no longer wanted, both men and women who are being forced into arranged marriages by their families, families arranging child marriages at ages 2-3 and bonded child labourers.

The hardest thing I find to deal with is the issue of tradition.

If a particular thing has always been done, does that make it right? By what standard do you judge these things?

If a person accepts and believes in a certain form of treatment or behaviour, does that make it okay? What if it is simply conditioning ie. what he/she has been told constantly by her parents and community all their life?

What has lifted my heart has been the Indian people I have met who have dedicated their lives to helping people and bringing about a change for the better. And I mean BETTER, rather than trying to impose a western ideal.

The other joy has been that, while I have met with extreme poverty, I have yet to encounter hopelessness. People seem to believe that they have future, whatever their current circumstances.

Anyway, I just felt the need to unburden some of this stuff. As I said, I make no great claim to insight or understanding. I have no answers. Thanks for reading.


At 11:40 am, Blogger Cynthia said...

I've read and seen in documentaries much of what you talk about. I too have no answers and always struggle with the question of tradition but like you said, my hope lies in the men and women who are fighting for the victims.

At 4:31 am, Blogger Lyra said...

Hi KJ, its nice that you take such a balanced approach. Working in the nonprofit world, and as an anthropology student, I see occasions where programs meant to help people are more about imposing western ideals instead of listening to the peoples' ideas for how to make things better in a way that is more culturally appropriate. Of course when we come to the are of gender roles and relations,improving things without threatening traditional power relations can be impossible. It sounds like there is plenty to think about in Jaipur. Are you seeing examples of creative thinking about how to change gender relations and power structures in a mutually respectful way?

At 5:41 am, Blogger Unknown said...

i can understand what you felt.. am an indian.. have grown up watching such things happening around me and feeling so damn helpless..

At 9:52 am, Blogger KJ said...

Hi Cynthia, Lyra and Aamena, thanks for your comments.

Lyra, what I have seen is a highly analytical approach to these problems. There is recognition that these problems need to be addressed across a range of fronts. For example, there is no point in rescuing child labourers if you are not also going to address the circumstances that put them there in the first place.

This involves providing supporting for their families, educating the children themselves, making life uncomfortable for employers, lobbying the government for legislative change and raising public awareness. All these things are difficult and involve long term commitment.

At 5:29 pm, Blogger Shella said...

KJ even as an Indian, I myself fail to u'stand the complexities of the nature of people in this coutnry. On the one hand, I have seen people go out & out to help others - n on the other - I have seen atrocities of the highest level & shrewdness of the wierdest kind - but then even though I havent travelled outside Indian, I feel that it must be the same must not be limited to India itself...its the human beings nature that varies areound the Globe....n blv me when I say I HATE IT when a foreigner is cheated in any way in my country...I have always tried to protect & assist any foreigner who has seemed lost to me during my various travels, n I shall always do i blv there must be many like me....Sorry for the long comment...

At 8:01 pm, Blogger KJ said...

Shella, not at all. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree, there is good and bad everywhere, including here in Australia. People are just good and bad in slightly different ways.

I met so many wonderful people in India. It was a fantastic experience.


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