It’s a world of technology and progress for us, and it’s hard to imagine any other. For the most part we’re fed, housed and can find some kind of work. Our government is corrupt, but as governments go, it’s less corrupt than many. Things generally work. They’re not perfect, but they work.
Seeing first-hand the massive gap between the privileges we enjoy and the impoverished hardscrabble lives in rural India has given me a new view of us and our culture:
You must excuse me if I don’t have sympathy for your Facebook posts bemoaning the shitty nature of your life. You don’t know what a shitty life is.
You don’t know jack.
So excuse me.
You’re in a bad mood? I’ve seen people so poor they live in dirt and filth that would make your skin crawl and still smile and wave to affluent American tourists, looking for a better life next time.
So, no patience with your bad mood, little Facebook sad faces or complaints. None.
You must excuse me if I don’t give a whit –or a shit–about your depression over the latest “tragedy” in your life. You can’t afford to buy a house? At least you can rent a decent apartment. Car broke down? Take public transportation. You’re pissed off because local restaurants won’t allow you to dine with your dog? Give me a break.
I don’t much care.
You can’t find the latest Xbox for your kid? I’m just back from a place where the price of an Xbox would feed a family for a year. You’ve got dog hair on your sofa? I’ve just come from a place where dogs are starving and flea-bitten and in such sad condition I couldn’t look at them.
You’re angry about standing in line an hour for the latest Ipad? I’ve seen people who wouldn’t know what to do with an Ipad and its price would pay their living expenses for a year. A year.
You’re underemployed because you’re too lazy to go back to school or start a search for a better job? I’ve seen people who have no opportunities at all. None. There’s no way for an illiterate, toothless man who sleeps on the dirt street to bootstrap in a country with millions like him.
India’s changed me.
It’s done away with my patience for first-world problems.
For how spoiled we are.
How entitled we sound.
How little we care about others.
How much we feel that we are the center of the universe.
I have new eyes and I don’t like what they see here. I’m not sure what to do with these feelings, either. But I know that I’ll do something.
I’ve been mostly a European traveler my whole life, which is to say India was the first step I’ve taken that’s truly out of my comfort zone and it turned out to be not just a step but a giant leap.
And there’s no going back.