Yesterday I went into a slum community school. As I was walking through the alleyways, I saw life thriving around me. In tiny shacks all joined together, people had crammed mattresses to sleep on. Outside the doors, two sticks were lit up so as to boil water in a pan. People surviving on the very basics of life. Yet what struck me was not how little the community had, but the way in which they had created a habitable environment. A livable environment, perhaps not lavish or comfortable, but resourceful and manageable.
The other thing I noticed was that despite having the very basic of human provisions, every second house in the slum had a tv which was blaring out the latest bollywood hits. When I finally reached the school, the children greeted us by calling us ‘didi’ which means older sister. They may not have great material wealth, but they have an abundance of endurance and generally a joy for life. They make everyone feel a part of their family.
This is something very new for me, as individual space is much more a priority in the western world. Being back in India, I am rediscovering my own relationship with my motherland. There are frustrations living in a developing country like India, but there is also something which makes it worth dealing with, and I can’t explain that to anyone who hasn’t experienced it. If I had never gone away, I might have taken this for granted. But now I’m torn between two cultures and a little unsure about exactly where I belong. India has certainly made me feel part of itself, and it’s much harder to achieve this sense of family in the west because family is not considered as necessary within the society. I guess I will have to accept that I belong wherever I am at the time, and that there’s nothing essential about my identity except for who I am.