what have I learnt in India?

It’s late, but something is keeping me awake. Could be the small can of Coca Cola that I drank earlier, with CONTAINS CAFFINE stamped on the side? It’s possible, I’ve been off caffine for long enough that a regular cup of tea gives me a sleepless night.

The Coca Cola was given to me in the house of an old friend of Sahisnu’s; Rana Gupta. Their house was above a shop and was one of the nicest that I have been into in any of my trips to Delhi. I know there are much nicer houses that this one, but I’m used to living in the slums and this felt like a place in comparison. Marble floors, the biggest TV I have seen in a long time, and wallpaper – something I’ve never seen in an Indian home before.

I’m wondering what I have learnt about myself since I have been here.

I learn about myself in specific moments. This morning I thought I was being invited to talk at a school and my first response was resentment. I had got used to the idea that my last two days would be quieter and was even looking forward to that quite space (despite being frustrated earlier this week, in the spaces where there was less to do). It didn’t take long for me to convince myself that I could enjoy giving a talk, the school was an hour away and they wanted something on basic Buddhism… I could provide that, I thought, and it would be a good thing to do, dharmic work, even if it’s not directly supporting the Amida Buddhists here.

Of course once I was looking forward to it I realised that I hadn’t been invited at all. Suvidya had simply been telling me about something he would be doing in a few week’s time, once I have gone.

These specific moments give rise to more general learning. This one takes me back to the dream I had before coming out here: let go of your expectations.

I have learnt that I only feel competent in so many ways in the UK because I am embedded in systems which I understand and which support me. Here in India freed from those systems I sometimes feel under resourced and suddenly grateful for everything that holds my competence at home.

And of course, I am reminded of how provisional the life I have is. That if a just one or two conditions had been slightly different I might be living in poverty or in a society that is organised along completely different lines and with completely different assumptions to the one I usually call home.


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