Yes, even the rats we've met and the car exhaust we've consumed (truly...it's so thick you could cut it with a knife...and eat it with a spoon...kind of like pudding...only gray and smoky and filled with noxious fumes! Bon Appetit.)
In all seriousness: Though many of my blogs, thoughts and feelings about being in India focus on the comical, this does not mean that I am making fun of India. On the contrary, India is a multi-layered place filled with both comedy and tragedy, dark and light, generosity and need, joy and pain. If ever there was a country which embodied contradictory forces...well, India has my vote. It is as bewitching as it is frustrating.
We all have moments when our home country is deeply missed (and to be honest, ones in which we would run screaming down the runway and attach ourselves to the wing of the first plane out of Bangalore,) but for the most part we look around and see how generous the God and the universe has been to our family.
Yesterday, as we sat in traffic, a young girl about Grayce's age came up to the window begging. She carried a basket in which lay curled a brown snake. My "begging policy" is pretty simple (and really no different than it was back in the U.S.) If something tells me to give, I do and I don't feel guilty about it either way but I always try and see the humanity in the person standing before me. Occasionally, that humanity is pretty pissed that I'm not opening my purse. Occasionally, the money and person fades quickly away...moving on to the next open pocket. I rolled down my window, handed out a few rupees and was rewarded by a smile so open and genuine it took my breath away.
So many of the city's child beggars are part of a begging consortium. They "perform" acrobatics in traffic...contortionists and jugglers and drummers...dirt smeared faces...wide grins but often jaded eyes. They tap insistently on a window, thrust sleeping babies, calling out "medicine" or mime their fingers towards empty mouths. Giving them money might make us feel good, as if we are "helping"...but it's a poor solution...they don't get to keep the money and it does little to improve their lives. It's heartbreaking and surreal to live a life of abundant wealth surrounded by the close proximity of those who have so little. While there is poverty in the U.S...it is never so starkly apparent nor so widespread. There are more degrees of poverty here and more complicated explanations. The gulf between those who have and those who do not is wider. And there are so many people that the individual becomes an expendable commodity. At the same time, there is less isolation and more extended family. Religious and social concepts of reincarnation and caste can make it seem as if there is *nothing* to be done and sometimes it seems like nothing is being done but there are people working tirelessly for the poor...excellent charity organizations and individuals with little or no means who still manage to feed the poor and help educate a child.
We are not ashamed of our blessings and successes and opportunities. It serves no one to claim otherwise. But they are not entitlements and we are no more or less deserving of them than any other human soul. We do not understand the disparities in this world but our eyes and hearts are opended wider to its needs and this is something we'll learn from, work from, parent from and carry with us in the years to come.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. No presents to buy. Just family, friends, a fine meal, time and space to celebrate our connections. It was strange to wave Bob off to work and the kids off to school. It felt lonesome. Our families were missed. We had dinner plans with the other Target expats at a restaurant called "The Only Place" which actually had a "Thanksgiving" Buffet complete with Turkey and all the trimmings. (See our friends, The Murphy's fabulous and entertaining blog for a recap of the evening: http://loudamericans.blogspot.com/2007/11/thanksgiving-in-india-only-place.html ) There was a singular moment when I looked around the restaurant, felt the weight of my filled plate, heard the screech and laughter of our horde of expat children and felt at home.
The Fischers in Bangalore