On Saturday evening I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of twittering chicks in a basket somewhere in the darkness. To my left was the snoring grandmother of a girl I had just met and just below my feet was a gigantic water buffalo enjoying a midnight grass snack. I was lying upon a mat on a mud floor, a barn cat was sleeping on my chest, there were more animals than people sleeping in the room yet I was incredibly comfortable and the situation didn’t feel all that out of the ordinary. Maybe after a month living at MUWCI my entire idea of what ordinary means has changed.
An incredible experience of the last few weeks here was being welcomed into the home of fifteen year old Priyanka whose family kindly had me stay for the night and experience their way of life. Merely a 45minute walk from my MUWCI home I entered a village where things seemed much more simple. However, beneath the surface lies a confusing social structure in which a paternal dominance over the house prevails yet the children appear to have a dominating influence over their parents. The cows are treated royally and are fed before anybody else and are given prime living room within the home. The house I was in didn’t have running water or a toilet but it was impossible not to note the presence of a tv and a satelite dish. Before going to the village if someone had asked me if I would prefer a washroom or a tv I would definitely have said a toilet. Doesn’t it make more sense to want a basic necessity rather than a luxury item? But, if I was in a situation where I had to choose, would that really be what I prefer? Why not both? The village was stuck in the past by most development standards yet modern technology such as cellphones and laptops had found their way in. My home stay brought me great joy and humbleness to connect with the people over barriers of language and cultural differences. At the same time I have developed so many more questions about this place and the people who shape what it is. Although I only spent a short time in a village, I felt as though I was truly in a community. But what exactly makes a community a community anyhow? Is it a collection of people of shared cultures and worldview? It is a geographic location? Is it a school or a business? Maybe a community needs a heart at it’s centre be it a temple, a shared space or open doors for neighbors to enter freely. I have a lot to learn about meaningful connections and community structure from both my fellow students and local people who are kind enough to share their spaces and stories with me.
The time has been flying by with many workshops, speakers, concerts, evening bike trips, debates, and an ever growing list of assignments. With the craziness intensifying I am ready for a few days rest in Bangalore where I am heading for the Ghandi Jyanti holiday long weekend. I can’t wait to see what this ‘garden city’ has to offer. Alvida!