Sunday, October 7, 2012

India revisited

I am back in Delhi and impressed by its post-monsoon greenness. It is lovely to be back.

I spent the morning with a trust that works with street children where 30-40 new arrivals might grace a Delhi railway station every day. They flee abuse, a felt lack of opportunity and towards the dazzling allure of a city sold to them in minted Bollywood dreams.

The reality is harder: a Delhi nightmare  where you prioritize your expenditure on drugs (or glue), the cinema (for escapism and sleep) and possibly food or if you are a girl your income is prostitution and your outgoings go mainly to your pimp.

The Trust helps develop trust with the runaway and entices them into the possibility of a new life - either effectively as an 'orphan' in one of their centers or in a renegotiated relationship with their families.

The results are impressive - people progressively healed and given new opportunities - as was evident in our two young guides and their oft told stories retained both a freshness and a deflected pain.

At lunch, we had a exceptionally moving talk from a contemporary Gandhian who had effectively re-interpreted his master's message for a new century - not only was he engaged in effective work with young people creating for them new educational opportunities but also deeply reflective on the revaluation of values we all need if we are to navigate a perilous present. We need a new sense of the joy of learning into the world, of collaborative discovery and inter-connected lives rather than defining our meaning through consumption. A consumption that leaves the world broken and our souls empty.

I was reminded of the importance of defining ourselves by what we are for rather than simply protesting what we are against and that this necessarily requires us to state our values and the culture they give rise to rather than take shelter in the instrumental thinking that bedevils international development agencies. These are exceptionally good at defining what we are against, more challenged by protesting what we are for.

So far so good on this trip that is meant to be displaying the heart of India and that may display a small but valued portion of its skin.

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