A Westerner’s Perception of India – Are they poor or are you? – 26 Oct 12

Indian culture

One of the participants of our Ayurveda Yoga Holiday described her experience here in India to Ramona and when I heard about the way how she described the people here and her own attitude towards them, I thought it quite interesting and wanted to write some lines about it.

When you walk through the streets of in India as a westerner, you will see a lot of people and you might think that they are poor. You see that they wear old clothes, some of them only wrapping a towel around their hips. There are hand pumps by the side of the roads where people wash their clothes, drink and fetch water to take it home. You see houses that only have brick walls, no plaster and sometimes not even bricks, only straw and some metal sheets or plastic. The life of those who live there is out on the road. That is where they cook, eat, sit to talk and also work. You see how workers pave the street with simple tools. Also in the markets you won’t find electric scales for weighing the food customers buy – shopkeepers manually balance the scale pans with weights, determining the prize. Everything is simple, people are poor.

It seems so clear to you, coming from the clean, tarred roads of your country that those whom you see in India are mostly poor. You see the dirt everywhere and you think ‘We could teach them ways to handle waste and show them how to do recycling!’ You watch how children and adults alike sit at the side of the road or in the fields to empty their bowels and you are prepared for the bad smell when you turn the corners of the town, thinking ‘We have so good sewage systems, we should bring them here!’

Our guest, having described this all, said something that I appreciate very much and that has caused a big flow of thoughts: ‘I realized that this all are very arrogant thoughts! I cannot really call these people poor! After all, I came here, to their country, because I am searching for something they have! They don’t want anything from me, I want something from them!’

It is so true! Thousands, no, millions of tourists visit India every year. Most of them are not only here to lie on the beach or to visit the Taj Mahal. They are here because they are on a search, they have an inner longing, a void that they believe can be filled in India. It is spiritual, religious, a search for peace and balance, for a calm mind and quiet emotions. For happiness. For love.

They often go on a longer journey without any concrete destination, just wanting to get to know country and people, convinced that they will find what they are looking for. They go in Ashrams, take retreats, do yoga and meditation. And they leave India, feeling richer, relaxed, taking something home with them from this country in which they first walked and thought people to be ‘poor’.

Maybe the people in India really have something to give you, why else would you be here? They can show you how to make the best of what you have. To be satisfied. To be happy. Not to compare yourself with everyone else and feel bad about it. To realize how rich you really are, not only materially but emotionally, in your heart. You learn to value the small things again and you find back to an inner happiness that cannot be shaken easily anymore.

India may seem poor to you but you came because you want to take part in their emotional wealth.

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