September 27, 2013
Last night Avinash cried himself to sleep for the first time. He cried because he did not want the day to end. It was also the first time ever that he expressed that feeling.
What was probably an average, maybe even uneventful, day for those around us may be one of the most significant days for Avinash.
We did not have a day filled with sightseeing, or playgrounds, or amusement parks. Just a day spent with family. Something we haven’t had on this trip and quite honestly have not had enough of since he has been born.
We are in Mumbai. Although I was born in the USA, I have some close roots here. My parents came to the US a couple of years before I was born and unlike other immigrant families, no one else from either my mother’s or father’s side came, too. It set us up for the average American lifestyle; house in the suburbs with limited interactions with people outside of school, work and the occasional weekend social event.
Growing up I was fortunate enough that I was brought to India every few years. Culturally, materialistically and socially it was the complete opposite of my life growing up in the US.
In India I discovered that privacy, ‘me time’ and personal space that we value so dearly in the west is extremely overrated. The joy of minute to minute and day to day living is that you are surrounded by family, friends, neighbors and anyone else that walks past your always open door.
I got to understand and witness how joint families work and thrive, how communities truly help one another. Forget going to the neighbors to borrow a cup of sugar. The level of hospitality, at least among Gujurati’s, is that a guest entering your home is a boon and a person will find it difficult to leave not fed and cared for as if you are one of their own.
Of course coming from a western perspective India has it’s sensory and comfort challenges. As Americans we place great value on our material possessions – house, cars, TV size. In fact our emotional well being and feeling of happiness is closely tied to these possessions. Our unhappiness is just as closely tied them as well. If we are not able to get the 80″ TV or the perfect 4 bedroom house in the burbs we spend our time, energy and borrowed credit to get them. Although I see our Indian counterparts with the same desires it is not a consuming one as it is for us in the west. There are not many excesses here. With the same fervor that we seek external and material sources for our happiness they get it from their close personal connections. I think it satisfies the same emotional receptors seeking satisfaction. I never thought that satisfaction and happiness were 2 sides of the same coin.
To see Avinash surrounded by people that satisfies what I feel is a primal need for community is beautiful and sad, because I do not know how to fulfill that need when we return home.
We will enjoy it to the fullest for now and see what kind of changes we can make in our lives once we get back home.