Friday, July 2, 2010

Community Space

I just wanted to take a moment to share a few observations that serve as a foundation for the vast cultural differences any individual is to encounter when traveling abroad.

While the following example may sound slightly strange or unusual compared to most anything that occurs in the states, it is quite normal and even a mundane sort of occurrence here in India. When I arrived to India several weeks back, I ended up having to go to a nearby shop to purchases a few necessities, one of which was soap. After placing the small bar on top of its box and setting the box on my sink, I just assumed I would leave it there for daily use, as I was the only person sleeping and living in my room. Sleeping maybe, but living most certainly not. When I woke the next morning and found that my soap was no longer sitting where it was left, I went outside and asked the manager where small, blue, bubbly bar might be. Just minutes later Bhardi, the boys hostel warden who I met last weekend when I was teaching came dancing into my room with a bar of soap. He went on to explain that because someone else was using the soap at his house when he was rushing to get ready, he thought he would use mine. Although I initially thought he was making a joke, he was actually being completely honest. Since I had a fresh bar of soap in my room, there was no sense in him purchasing a new one from the store while someone was using his just for that one morning. After overcoming a slight bit of shock and upon further reflection, it was quite obvious to me that Bhardi wasn’t doing anything more strange or unusual than that which was most efficient and utilized the smallest amount of resources.

This entire example is meant not only to convey the fact that there are millions of people out there more efficient and utilizing far less resources than you and I, but that there is an overwhelming environment of community space in India that allows for such events as the “soap situation” to occur. So, while it may not have been my natural tendency to invite a stranger into my bathroom to take and wash his hands with my soap, pronouns to which we as Americans attach such great meaning do not influence or shape Indian life in nearly the same way.

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