August 3, 2016 Entry from Sarah [In] India ’16 Blog
So, it has been a few weeks since my last blog post. In that time I have come to love more the parts of India I like, and I have also come to hate more those things I dislike. This one country contains a culture that is so vast and inexplainable.
First, I love so many things about India! I think of the way that Indians share with one another, and take on one another’s burdens (sometimes quite literally – see below). In the classroom, a snack is always brought with the expectation of passing it around so everyone gets a taste. Water bottles also get passed around the room, and the Indian students are ridiculously skilled at “water-falling” so that they have a drink without ever touching their mouth to the container. This has resulted in many wet shirts for the American students… haha. 😀 Other things I love are the bright colors, the beautiful saris (which we American students finally purchased and wore for a day of visiting agencies!), the delicious food, and the welcoming personalities.
One example of how the Indians take on one another’s burdens: Riding the bus and the train can be quite the experience, depending what time of day you are traveling. One of the Indian students compared it to a sugar cane being passed through a press, so that the sweet unrefined sugar, or”jaggery,” will come out. So you can get into a train like a piece of sugar cane and come out like jaggery – not much of an exaggeration really. But back to the story. Such was the case one day on our way to a field agency visit. I was standing in the aisle, crammed on the left and the right, trying not to slam my backpack into another passenger’s face when we went over bumps and made stops. Typically you place your feet farther apart for stability, but when there is no room all you can do is simply hang on for dear life. And then a woman taps me on the shoulder, and says something in another language I cannot understand. One of my friend’s translates: “Give her your bag.” What? Why? My friend’s bag was soon on the woman’s lap. Before I knew it, mine was on top of the first, practically smothering this woman. More than happy to help, she sat under the bags with a huge smile on her face.
Especially among the women, there seems to be a sort of unsaid agreement to look out for each other’s welfare. This seems to be a sort of reaction to the patriarchal society, seen in such societal symptoms as the college-aged girls having a required 7pm dorm curfew and an expectation to always have a male with them when they travel. It is not seen as safe for women to be out with the way society is and so many risks of “making mistakes,” whereas the boys can be out as late as 10:30 or 11pm with no issues. It would seem that a woman who was raped would first be asked: “Who were you with? How late were you out? What were you wearing?” before a straightforward: “Who did this to you?” Certainly in opposition to my sense of American justice and understanding of the female role in society. That being said, I really enjoy the sense of camaraderie among the women; some of my favorite times in India have been traveling on the train in the ladies’ compartment. Even when it is something as simple as being able to grimace and smile across the language barrier when we are being pressed into jaggery in a train compartment.
We have now visited ten different social work agencies, all working on different social issues and with different populations. There are a couple I am specifically interested in, and my hope is that I will be able to blog again in a week or so with my field placement! We have three months left in the semester, and I am getting ready to jump into some consistent experience in an agency. It has been really good and really difficult to think through issues such as domestic violence, destitution among the elderly, mental illness, community development in a tribal area, HIV/AIDS victims, orphans, forced resettlement, etc. Surely there is so much need. Choosing a placement involves not only my areas of interest, but also considering where my skills can best be used while taking the language barrier into consideration. Thank you all for your prayers concerning this decision!
We spent a night at a hotel in Mahabalipuram visiting a historical site with rock engravings and elaborate temples. I think we may have most enjoyed having a nice pool for our first swim in over a month – can’t you tell by the faces we are making?
Hello! My name is Sarah Ingram and I had the opportunity to study in India at Madras Christian College for the Fall ’16 semester. I am a Social Work major at Cedarville University in Ohio, and I am passionate about learning how to help people as best I can. It is my desire to use my skills to love people and bring glory to God. My time in India showed me deeper need than ever before, led me to meet some of the most amazing people I have ever met, and taught me that now is the time to act rather than waiting for someone to ask.
The following entry has been used, with permission, from the student’s personal blog.