A Smudge on the Lens

As I return to Mumbai and actually explore the city more, I have been dealt a healthy dose of perspective as unique as it is appreciated. Mumbai is progressive… as progressive as any city in India. To provide contrast, we flew via Delhi where it is unsafe for women (even in groups) to venture out at night (as such it was quite low on our list of places to visit in India). As progressive as Mumbai is, it pales in comparison to most major metropolitan cities in the United States. While this is not surprising, reflecting on this now from first-hand experience is more emotional.

I’ll admit that India has been a bit overwhelming. Twenty action-packed days have passed us by and we’ve seen but a sliver of this expansive country. We’ve seen the inside of five-star hotels and men taking unabashed shits on the side of the road. Through both filth and wonder, it has been a spectacular experience.

I’ll set the stage by saying that India’s geography and landscapes are beautiful; it’s architecture and marvelous cities are awesome; and, most importantly, the human beings that occupy it are humble, optimistic, hard-working and kind. I enjoyed almost every personal interaction I had while here and it is absolutely wonderful to be reminded that there is a humanitarian hidden in almost every human on the planet. It also reminds me how environment and community allows that intention to be expressed.

The part that will stay with me is the mental disconnect I have with much of India. There is an idea here that home is inside the walls of what you own and that your home should be cherished and kept clean. And while I agree with how a home should be kept, I realize that my home is where my heart is and I take that wherever I go; I always try to leave a place cleaner and better than I found it - wherever I go. I am a bit broken by a sadness after weeks of witnessing people dump garbage everywhere outside their homes and then proceed to walk by it or through it, even wading at times.

I’m told by the young in the cities that Indian culture is very slowly changing, but if it continues at its current pace I may never live to see an India as beautiful as it deserves to be. As I listen to a young man living and working in Mumbai tell me about all of the good that is coming, I see a beach touching untouchable water. I appreciate his optimism, but the only word that comes to mind is desecration.

I suppose I am a prisoner-by-choice to my own sensibilities. Throughout our trip I have again and again visited places in which I was surrounded by marvelous buildings, art and landscape. In the places where I was also surrounded by mistreatment of the people based on gender, race and other inconsequential differences I felt as if I was viewing these marvels through an oily lens.

As I stay connected with home, I’m remotely aware of the classic political discourse (a word far too elegant for such a vile performance). The last few years mark a peak in my 37 years on Earth where the exclusion of others has been paraded vocally, openly and incessantly by a group of my own countrymen that is both widely distributed and terrifyingly large.

I always say that hope is not a strategy, but as I’ve committed to travel the world with my family, my actions in my nation are limited to just that. I hope that when I return that this sentiment is quelled and I do not see my beloved United States through a lens smudged by the same oil of the more afflicted places we’ve visited.

General Information

Where we were.

{{ last_loc.name }} starting {{last_loc.whence | date:'yyyy-MM-dd'}}

Where we are.

{{ current_loc.name }} since {{current_loc.whence | date:'yyyy-MM-dd'}}

Where we're going.

{{ next_loc.name }} on {{next_loc.whence | date:'yyyy-MM-dd'}}