Perhaps why I was so dumbfounded by the kindness which the Indian people showed to us was because of how overtly wealthy we seemed in comparison to the stark poverty that four hundred million Indians live in. As Santosh Desai described in Mother Pious Lady, because the older generation lived through scarce times, they live, even if they have achieved great monetary wealth, sucking up every last drop of “paisa” from the products they consume. The Indian’s ability to stretch scarcity to its farthest limits fascinates me in this time of hyper sustainability in the American marketplace and society. Everyone, everything is trying to be green, yet across the ocean lay poor people who are already living sustainably, and much better.
Granted, I probably say this in every blog about a different lesson I learned, but perhaps one of the greatest things I learned in India was about myself and my lifestyle. It’s a fact that anyone who sees someone living in poverty is hit with compassion and feel a need to live differently and give more. But seeing millions and millions of Indians living in poverty, but making the most of everything in their lives, always consuming in the Indian way of repurposing is something that will always stay with me. When I see people begging on the streets in Dallas, I assume that money will go to waste in the form of alcohol, drugs, etc. So, seeing these poor, poor people utilizing anything possible, and using what they have to survive now because they are working hard to create a better future for themselves was truly inspiring. If they can make use of so very little, then how am I not living that much better with comparatively abundant resources? Once the guilt passes of living, driving, sleeping in air conditioning, a luxury in India, having cold and purified water at my fingertips at all times (the list goes on), a sense of laziness remains.
I do believe all things are relative, though, and because they lived through desperate times, they have coped with desperate measures. Makes me wonder if perhaps as they acquire more wealth as a population, if the people will hold onto this habit of their parents and grandparents, or if it will slowly be weeded out of society?