I recently returned from two weeks in India. I was there mostly on business; I had been invited to participate in a hackathon against gender based violence, as a subject matter expert and mentor. After the hackathon, I gave a couple of presentations at local schools and organizations and enjoyed getting to know local youth. It was an incredible opportunity to not only share my knowledge and expertise but to learn from local NGOs and youth.
I visited Kolkata, Ranchi, and Guwahati. Of course, I could not be in India without visiting some of the Temples. I’ve been a devotee of Kali for quite some time, and have a strong alignment with Tantra (the real Tantra – not the Western tantra-is-sex thing). I feel very lucky to have been able to visit the Kali temple at Kalighat, Umananda temple on Peacock Island in the Brahmaputra River, and most especially Kamakhya Temple.
But just as meaningful as the large temples, were the many many shrines to be found on almost every corner or under every other tree. And to walk on ground that has supported the feet of pilgrims for centuries, to feel earth and community that has steeped in devotion – those feelings I will struggle to describe for a long time.
And yet, the problems that India has are also very real. We’ve heard about them – the poverty, the violence, the pollution. The ways of living and being in community that seem irredeemable to the Western eye. And indeed, I saw much that shocked me. Being in India, I was constantly holding both shock and awe. It shook me and woke me up in ways that I had never experienced, and forced me to move through perceptions of duality.
And it made me realize just how much the United States has in common with supposedly “third world”, “developing”, “Global South” countries. Why else would we label them as something Other?
So keep an eye out here for more posts about my experiences. I’ll try to be timely with them, but words flow when and how they will.