3/19/13





Only In India

From WorldTeach India Volunteer Kylie J. Edwards


I have a lot of writing to do in order to catch up on where I am at in my adventures, but for now I will keep it simple with a thought that I had recently. I want to share with you a few things that are so unique to India and remind me of the beautifulness of India but also remind me of the flaws within my own culture and that cultural differences present us with ideas that make us really understand that no culture is superior.

The other day I was on a bus and was sitting with another woman. All of a sudden at one stop about 30 people crowded onto the bus. This included a little girl with a backpack that was stuffed to the brim and looked like too much for her thin little frame. She stood in front of our seat and was soon being pushed by the crowd into the metal pole in front of our seat. We quickly took her bag from her, put it on the floor between us, and invited her to share our rather narrow bench with us. She sat there packed between two grown women sweating profusely in the hot sun. Another women was standing in front of us and was trying to manage to hold on, as the bus navigated the winding roads that unevenly cut through the rice paddies, and find her bus fare in her purse. The young girl reached up and took her purse. She placed it in her lap and dug for the woman's pocketbook. Within seconds she was pilfering through the pocketbook for the exact change for the bus fare. Once the change was found she handed it to the woman and secured her pocketbook back inside the purse which remained on the girls lap.

The example above made me think, only in India would a young school girl take the pocketbook of another woman on a bus and get her bus fare and replace everything. I don't think I would ever hand over my pocketbook to a young person on a bus. Indian's are so trusting of their fellow citizens. Most people refer to each other as sister, brother, auntie, or uncle. It was something that I also encountered in South Africa and loved, but never thought too much about. Why would you steal from you sister? It is a beautiful thing that I love about Indian culture and makes me sad about my own culture. I wish we had a culture which was more trusting of each other, honest, and had a stronger sense of community.



Another bus example: Many times I have been on a bus and a woman holding a baby and a bag or two will step on the bus. There are no seats for this woman and child, however, men and women will jump over themselves to relieve her of holding her bags and her child. A woman/man will grab the child and put it on their lap. The child will not protest and often times will fall fast asleep. Another woman/man will grab the bags from her and place them on her lap and not disturb the contents. At first I thought that it was so odd that people would passively sit by and let this woman stand. Soon enough I began to see it as something else. I began to see that it is so unique to Indian culture. I cannot truly describe how I feel when I witness such things. I have seen men who are strangers grab the child and let them fall asleep, a man who entertained a fussy baby, and a woman who picked up a small girl and let her fall asleep on her. This idea that their nation is comprised of their own brothers and sisters is really something that my own culture does not possess. It is some sort of far away ideal that resides in the farthest reaches of my brain. It always feels like a quality long lost to human civilization, yet here I am in South India and the ideal that I long for, for our society, is prevalent and so beautiful.

Another thing that I have encountered many times is going to the market or tea stall and not having enough money on me to pay for something or the clerk not having enough change. They just smile and say next time. The other day I went for coffee and only had one bigger bill and 11 rupees. My morning coffee is 15 rupees. The man simply smiled and said next time. As I walked away from the tea stall I tried to imagine a scenario like that at home. I found it very hard to imagine a coffee shop worker allowing me to proceed with my purchase without paying for a quarter of it.

Many times in India I have been driven to think "Only in India" - sometimes this phrases comes to my mouth when presented with something beautiful and so uniquely Indian and sometimes this phrases comes flying out of my mouth out of frustration. More recently, with my departure date looming closer and closer, it has become a phrase to describe things that I will miss, things that I cannot explain to others who have not experienced a developing nation, things that I think are so beautiful and not a part of my own culture, and things that remind me of India's unique place that it will forever have in my heart. 


- Text by Kylie J. Edwards, WT India '12-'13

- Photos by WorldTeach


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