Opinion: Small things
Free Press Opinion Columnists
He said: Travel abroad puts things into perspective. Clearly, the whines we hear in the media seem to pale in comparison to the situations that exist in a third-world country. Amazingly, it’s the small things that are more significant than the national or international issues. Being able to go to the sink and pour potable, safe water into a glass for a drink is a real comfort after having to rely on drinking water coming from plastic bottles or boiled water for tea. Something I don’t think about at home became a daily issue in India on our trip.
She said: It’s not only drinking water, but also reliable electricity and roads that are not full of pot holes. When you witness people following a herd of cows through a town to pick up the fresh dung to dry and use for fuel, you realize how much we take for granted. We can gripe about traffic, but it does not compare to a 150 mile journey that takes nine hours because the roads are inadequate for the number of cars, animals and people on them. Imagine dodging cows, horse carts, oxen, bike riders, tuk-tuks loaded with 10-15 people along with cars packed six abreast in two lanes. If you mix over-loaded lorries and busses with a driving agendas of their own with the noise of thousands of horns, traveling becomes a sensory overload akin to Vegas, only much more real. The roads are for those with the luxury of mechanized transport. Most Indians are denied this luxury. Work is continuing at a feverish pace on a metro transportation system to help the traffic woes around Delhi, a city of 16 million. Much of the main work is being accomplished by hundreds of people, many of them women in saris, wielding pick axes and shovels, people who will not likely be able to afford a ride on the new system when completed since they make a dollar a day.
As corrupt and self-serving as our politicians have become, they still do not compare to the politicians in India, many of whom have to travel with armed guards because they are frequent targets of assassins. Our drivers only had to pay one bribe this time, to the airport cops. They were happy to be able to bargain the amount down by 800 rupees. Junction’s ex-airport administrator could learn a lot from the bureaucrats in Delhi.
He said: Fortunately, our airport problems are a small, isolated event. One relative said that India’s major issue is the corruption that is everywhere. Our Indian son-in-law said that the merger of politics with religion has made it impossible to have rational governance. In the local election there was an unexpected victory of a new party formed to do away with corruption. And, the first national, anti-corruption bill was passed while we were there. It is a little thing, but having federal officials that aren’t openly on the take is a great relief to me. I wondered if Indians could be provided small things like running water and adequate sewers if they didn’t have a country ruled by chaos and corruption, with a good dose of radical religiosity.
Most memorable the last few weeks were the little acts of kindness from many of the people we met. Jewelry merchants aside, they were genuinely open, friendly, and curious even after finding out we were from the U.S. The event, though, that provided the biggest relief to me was the myriad of small ways that our daughter was accepted and welcomed into her new husband’s extended Indian family. I appreciate how they altered traditional wedding ceremonies so we could participate in them. While language was a barrier, the smiles, gestures and hugs were the small acts that overcame that barrier.
She said: While it seems like a small thing to realize we all are human, it evokes a huge emotion in me to be reminded once again how much we have in common when to comes to issues that matter the most — love, acceptance, and families. Now I just need to learn the names of all our new sisters, brothers, aunties, uncles, mamajis, and cousins. It’s a small thing to give affirmation or kindness to others. We appreciate that which was given to us by the new family. I resolve to practice it more in the new year.
The Skinners, GJ Free Press columnists, hope we all can learn to get along well as members of the human family. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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