Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tyag

At the risk of sounding unappreciative and self-righteous, I feel downright uncomfortable when family and friends (and sometimes strangers) praise me for the sacrifices I'm making this year.

I'm not sure where this idea came from. How does moving across the world to explore something you love count as a sacrifice? Honestly, I'm lucky, and not just in a grateful-because-I-work-with-the-poor kind of way.

I realize that the path I chose isn't easy. It's sometimes physically uncomfortable (example: 30 hour train rides with unconfirmed seats).And it's almost always a mental roller coaster. But what did I give up?

Throughout the day I get to learn. I learn how to form relationships with people from all stratas of society. I learn how to cook foods that remind my of my mom. I learn the boundaries of my patience, and the depth of my love. I learn what to do when 100 kids are all crowding around you with their hands stretched out for want of something to do, or have.

Then, as I learn, I am constantly receiving love. I get loving messages from friends who I haven't spoken to in years. My students (teachers?) can tell when I'm sad or frustrated, and somehow know how to make me smile. I constantly get invitations to dinners and weddings. And my family calls me just when I am starting to miss them so much it hurts.

If it's about the material sacrifice, I can't digest that either. In the past few years I've struggled to have less of an impact on the environment. I've tried to become a producer rather than a consumer.I almost cried over plastic bags once, and I tried to convince myself I was strong enough to bike everywhere in my town.

Then suddenly, I don't even have to think about sustainability. I take a bath with one bucket (2 if I wash my hair). I get my fruits and vegetables from the farmer's market, which is cheaper than the store. I try to use the local bus, and if it doesn't come, I share an auto with three or four strangers.

I have less clothes than I ever have had -- I started with four pairs, but was given three more during Diwali. If anything, this has proved a blessing. I spend about 2 minutes getting dressed, and twenty four hours being comfortable. And somehow, despite the fact that my kurtas are loose and faded and my hair is wild, I've never had more attention or compliments on my appearance.

So I live in a slum part-time. Still, not a sacrifice. In fact, it might be a journalist's dream situation to be part of a community where you are both an insider and outsider. I have friends that I honestly connect with. I have host parents who care more about my comfort than I do. And after a few days of adjustment, I have a new place to call home.

I'm not here to experiment with poverty, or see how far I can go until I get sick. I'm here with a mission of inspiring some amazing children, and the rest of the lifestyle just seems to make my mission more clear and strong.

Everyday, it seems, someone is either overestimating me or underestimating me. Some people tell me that what I'm doing is amazing, when I know how much more I can do.

Then, others tell me that my efforts are misguided, ridiculous and extreme. They say I can do service without living simply, or challenging my needs. I can handle that criticism, too.

The truth is, in my everyday life here, I don't feel like I've lost anything. When I really want something, I have it and enjoy. But the wanting is much less, and the enjoying is much more. If this is sacrifice, I'll take it.

10 comments:

Malavika said...

Lovely thoughts Anki, you've arrived! Keep learning and enjoy.

Arundhati said...

You Go Girl, Ank's! So happy for you and your experiences. Thanks for sharing and extending your experiences with us, as we follow your journey of life. May you continue to discover a lifetime of limitless boundaries!

Wildflower said...

I hope you inspire not only kids but also adults to follow your path and live with the true spirit of humanity. God bless and Good luck in all your endeavours :)

Anonymous said...

its the journey not the destination
enjoy the journey becoz the destination is given
-uncle pete (uttam uncle)

Raju said...

A parent loves their child no matter what they do. I cannot honestly say that what you are doing is held up as a trump card or a statement saying "look what my child is doing". Anything that we do which is sincere and worthwhile brings us closer to God. And that is worth doing. Baba

Mohana said...

Documenting your journey allows all of us a chance to grow, especially as adults. Maybe our comments are not directed at you all the time but unknowingly at ourselves. I agree with your Raju V. Rao, you are amazing in all our eyes, no matter what you are physically doing...

naman said...

My friend Saket just shared this on google reader.

"Honestly, I'm lucky"

Well spoken

Pratik Vakharia said...

So touching post dear........u really doing a commendable TYAG which many of us can't even think to do.

By the way where r u these days???

rahulbrown said...

Fantastic post, Ankita. Full of clarity and depth. Very excited for what this year will bring to you, and what you'll bring back from this year.

Anonymous said...

Nice thoughts !!! Inspiring for all those who want to do something like this but are constantly discouraged by the people around...

ll try to follow this path once I satisfy part of the wishes of people who depend on me...