Reality Check

 Write about what hurts, Elena” said my creative writing Professor. So this blog is about that. It’s about pain, it’s about being okay with being uncomfortable, it’s about accepting what is, it’s about remembering that everything is always in Divine order, even when I don’t want to accept it as truth. These are raw words: a reality check. I’m telling you now so you can just skip the written part and look at the pictures (which are mainly here to distract you and because I took so many, what to do with them?) or decide not to read all together.

Granted I came to India with a broken heart so “things” have been even harder to digest, and given the fact that one of the reasons I am here was/is to live life to the fullest and being immersed in a reality that encompasses all aspects of life I am not complaining or regretting the choice I made. I have seen things here though, heard conversations, observed people, interacted with other humans and been part of situations that will forever stay with me and that have certainly been an awakening of body, mind, soul.

Let’s start by something I’m still struggling with: The Spitting. People do it as if it were let’s see... what’s the word… normal. Men spit whatever it is they chew all day long, from scooters, cars, shops, from buses’ windows, while walking, before and/or after eating. Women spit whenever they feel like in the presence of whomever – whatever- and I don’t know what it is… saliva, dirt, food stuck between their teeth? It’s a perpetual shock to my system in general and ears in particular when I hear the typical sound a spit makes, you know what I’m talking about, right? What to do? Nothing, except turn my face the other way and hold my breath.

The Garbage. I look at the many streets, sidewalks, open sewers full of little/large papers, wrappers, plastic, bottles, diapers, bags, used clothes… you name it it’s there. And it pains me. I hurt for the earth, the rivers where people throw stuff they’re done wiht, the mountains full of plastic bottles, wrappers, chips’ bags, disposable plates. I watch helplessly dogs, pigs, monkeys searching through it all for something to eat. I don’t know… is there any way to teach people dropping their garbage this way is devastating for the planet? And then again I understand, what are the villagers supposed to do? There is no actual “trash system” except for burning it, which is of course a whole other problem… My heart feels like it’s got tiny little needles in it – like a porcupine- as I remain powerless over something bigger than myself.

The Way Women Are Treated. I know this is a touchy subject and if you are an Indian man reading this, most likely, you’re not going to like it. I warned you at the beginning of my writing, though, so feel free not to continue. The one word that comes to mind to explain how they are considered here is “pieces of furniture.” Sit there and be silent. While you’re at it make a chai. Yes, I know furniture doesn’t make tea, you get the point, though. And yes it’s different in bigger cities, but India is not just made of those and Bollywood movies (which I love, by the way!). The women I’ve interacted with, in particular the ones I met during my travels from North India to Kerala are modest, quiet, and spend the majority of time either taking care of their animals (mainly cows - which means they cut the grass to feed them, milk them, collect their poop to make fuel for cooking, flooring, or walls….), take care of house chores,  and cook for the whole family, which is extensive. Every Single Day. If they’ve got an opinion about anything it seems they keep it to themselves. If they’re aware of what’s going on in the world I don’t know, they certainly don’t talk about it. The biggest, most important, and most expensive event in a woman’s life is her shadi (marriage). It’s planned by her family from a very young age, many are arranged (think of them as two families uniting for whatever reason), some are love marriages. A wife treats her husband as if he were a God.  She uses the polite version of speaking when addressing him  (aap) whereas the husband can speak to his wife any way he pleases (tum, tu). I hear many drink with their (male) friends, go home and beat their wives. Have you seen the movie PINK?

I love this passage written by Mahdavi S. Mahadevan in her  “The Kaunteyas”, “Marriage, for a woman, begins with a journey. She leaves her father’s house to spend the rest of her life among unfamiliar people. Which place does she call home – the one she is expected to give up or the one she is required to embrace and serve? What part of herself does she discard? What does she take forward?” I reflect on how we, in the Western world often complain about being mistreated and/or treated differently than men and then I think about these women who have zero voice and accept it as fate, karma, part of whatever. I feel their silence as if it were mine and it fills my heart with a dark cloud, like black smoke. Where is the future of brilliant young girls who, just because they happen to be born in a certain family, a certain village, a certain time have no future except the one of serving their husband and his family. Do they want to do that?

Street Dogs. OUCH! This for me is a very touchy subject.  There are many. And I mean MANY. It seems that the more south one goes the worse the conditions, although  the ones I saw in Vrindaven were in the most horrible shape I have ever seen them. I want to help them all. I do what I can and when I convince myself I can’t possibly- no way whatsoever - bring them all of home, my heart gets heavier, as if made of bricks. I feel trapped and minute in a society that accepts puppies roaming around, sick dogs walking the streets, being run over by cars and left in the middle of the road. I hear many are tortured and I certainly wonder where the ones in Kerala are? I didn’t see one when I was there. Most of the humans who adopt dogs don’t know what to do with them. They don’t understand the importance or shots and sterilization. They don’t seem worried about leaving their dog chained up outside the home/shop because he/she is dirty and “no no, it cannot come inside.” They don’t know which foods to give them. So much to do and so much impossible to do.  At the moment I am writing this, I am dealing with a German Shepherd I took away from a family in the village. She was malnourished, chained day and night outside in the middle of winter, half face chewed by another dog, no shots. I’ve spent more days at the local vet than I can recall… Now other issues have arisen and I don’t know if she will make it or not. My heart feels squeezed, like a washcloth for her and the many I can do nothing for. Remember , Elena,  Everything is always – a l w a y s – in Divine order,

“Write about what hurts, Elena.” Yes, that’s it. I gave words to reality, the one I see and live in. Unfiltered truth, this too is part of life. Like those pretty pictures of half naked bodies or catchy phrases you see on social media? I’m tired of those. I wanted a reality check. I got one. I wanted to live life’s every aspect even the not so pretty ones, because balance. I got those.

Thanks for reading.