Archive for January 24th, 2009

A Talk in Pondi

One of the most obvious things about Auroville is that it attracts people from all around the world.  Although almost everyone here speaks English, I’m becoming a champ at “guess that accent.”  My roommates at the Mitra Youth Hostle are from Austria, Russia, and the UK.

It’s tough when English isn’t someone’s first language.  I’ve been hanging out with some girls from Germany, and often they’ll kind of look at me with a nod and smile, and I know that they didn’t get what I said.  I have a feeling that at least half of it is my American phrases that just don’t make any sense.  So I’ve learned to rely heavily on body language and facial expressions.  It seems to be working.

Every day here brings me a step further away from my strictly American view of things.  Today I went into Pondicherri to get my cellphone set up.  I got half way there, but there was a road bump and i’ll have to back tomorrow to finish the job.  haha.

But this allowed me to meet Dave, a student from Northern India who is studying French here.  Eventually he started to tell me that he couldn’t figure out why India couldn’t have everything that America does.  He said that the rest of the world is having a financial crisis and India isn’t, so why is it still taking them so long to be a great country?  I tried to explain to him that just because people in the U.S. have so many material things, it doesn’t mean that we’re better off.  I was trying to say that maybe our way wasn’t all that  it was cracked up to be (haha- there’s one of those non-sensible Americanisms) but I could see that he wasn’t getting it.  Time and again in my environmental classes I’d learn about China and India following the American path of extreme consumption.  The message was clear: the earth can’t sustain it.  But how could I tell that to Dave, who was studying French so that he could start a business that would export rugs and cheap jewelry to Europe?  How could I say that while walking past us were people with legs as thin as sticks, who can’t find clean water and have to beg for their food?  So I sighed and with a shrug said, “We’re coming at this from two extremes, I guess.  There has to be a happy middle somewhere.”  I’m trying to figure out how Americans can be happier by having less, and he’s trying to figure out how Indians can he happier by having more.  The question is, once we find this middle, will Americans give up their toys so that India can meet them there?  Or will we do all that we can to maintain the divide?

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