Posted by: kelseypaske | January 9, 2014

A moment for reflection

After living in Delhi for over six weeks, I can almost call myself a local. I’m beginning to settle and feel at home in this fascinating city. One thing I have learnt though which has troubled me is how easy it becomes to go about your day and ignore the abject poverty that presents itself around each corner. Whether it be the young boy with torn jeans, no schooling who brings your lunch or the young five year old girls that approaches you, wanting to shake your hand and begging for money ‘Miss, miss!’

You can, and almost have to desensitize yourself to it. Yet it is the very nature of desensitizing myself to such a thing that I am struggling with.  As I shop at the local market I notice how second-nature it has become to ignore the man sprawled over a wooden board on wheels, one leg missing, shuffling his silver bowl, groaning to get any attention and a few more silver coins. It is just as easy to dismiss the elderly woman who grabs my arm as I walk to the office in the morning.

When you have a country that is so vast in history, culture, identity, religion, caste and wealth as India is, it is overwhelming to think about how you can begin to tackle such inequality and poverty. While I remind myself I am here assisting in a different capacity, through volunteering my time for a lawyers office dedicated to representing those whose rights have been violated or those who are marginalized for being a particular gender or sexuality, it is difficult to remind yourself, that what you’re doing in such a situation is enough.

During my last visit to India I visited with World Vision Australia, where I was learning about the incredible transformative development that was occurring across rural and urban communities in dire need. I was exposed to incredible hope and dedication and it restored my energy and faith in sustainable development.

Living in a country such as India is a struggle. Do I choose to give to the beggar to ease my conscience, knowing that the money may go to someone else? Do I purchase a banana, water, and sandwich knowing it will likely be resold? Or do I ignore the beggar, knowing that addressing begging communities has been a constant struggle for NGOs and government and that I should not fuel their continuation? These encounters occur on a daily basis. This is where the dismissive hand and ‘bas’ (stop/enough) become handy.

Some days are overwhelming. Other days I experience sheer joy listening to the children next to the office laugh and chase one another.  I guess what I have to remind myself is to do what I can, that small, tangible individual actions can amount to real change and transform lives. Each of us holds particular skills and passions with the potential to benefit another in some capacity.  For me, my degree and opportunities such as this internship will give me the energy to allow injustice to drive me throughout my career. Whatever path you pursue or career you are currently in, consider how your skills, time, resource can benefit others and let that inspire you and give you energy.

My advice: practice gratitude and compassion and give wherever possible.

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