In an effort to get some clear headspace I've started taking 5:15 a.m. morning walks to nearby Sukhna Lake. In the morning the air is still cool, and the rush nearby the industrial area has only just started to buzz.
On the way to the lake there is a golf course -- something that to me still belongs in Florida, but has somehow become popular here in Chandigarh. It seems to me that the stereotypical golf demographic in the U.S. has transferred here along with the ridiculous-to-maintain soft grass. Even in Chandigarh it is the rich, elite who come to the greens in the morning.
As I passed the course one day I took notice of the caddies -- scrawny, browned men, obviously still half asleep, carrying the bags of the portly gentlemen. I think of caddies that I have seen back in the States, usually teenagers who want some extra pocket money. Again I am reminded of this part of the Indian system that I have a hard time digesting: manual labor.
In the past year I've come to appreciate the strength of my body since it has much more of a role in my daily activities. From washing clothes by hands to carrying water from the nearby temple, I feel like I am healing from the years where desk-computer-gym has been the usual cycle.
But here, more so than at home, I feel that physical labor has come to connote a certain socio-economic class. When I tell my students I once worked at a clothing store, they get confused because no "rich girl" should do that. At home it's not strange to work as a waitress or bartender or salesgirl, but here these posts seemed to be societally reserved for the lower class.
It is obvious that our machine-supported life in America makes it much easier to clean and work independently, without maids or cooks. But even so, and this may sound about as colonizing as I get, there is a level of respect given to most (not all) people in service related positions in the U.S. that I don't always see here in India.
One of the values that Indicorps has instilled in me is to always do the work that my host family or community does, no matter how foreign and hard it may seem. This simultaneously strengthens my own endurance and demonstrates equality in the simple act of sweeping the library floor or carrying huge pots of boiling water for bathing in the winter.