It's about time I did another fairly reflective blog post on how I feel at this particular moment in time.
I've been back from India for about a month, and have busied myself doing lots of little odd-jobs all over the place. I've helped out at a haulage company, at a construction company, done some D.I.Y., and waited down in London for the delivery of a washing machine and tumble-dryer. I've also spent a few days in Scotland, a few in Cornwall, went fishing in Cardiff, and met up with some old friends in Nottingham. I've said my goodbyes to a few guys up at University in Manchester, where I'd lived for the two years before I headed out to India. All in all I've managed to fit quite a bit in.
As regards my India experience thus far, I think it's given me a subtly different perspective on life; I'd regard my car crash as having a more immediate impact. I guess it's like trying to make excuses for something you can't see. Very few people refuse to wear 'Nike' because their clothes are made in sweatshops - yet the majority of people accept that it happens - whilst also explicitly criticising the practise. I guess moving out and seeing what I've done so far in India is a real life experience of that multi-faceted view of society. We all accept that there are problems with the current system, and are outwardly vocal with our criticism - yet when it comes to action, few of us are likely to put our necks on the line and take responsibility. It's reflected in continued poverty across the world whilst the iPhone 3GS gets released, and that the MP's expenses SAGA stays on the front pages whilst voter turnout steadily declines.
One of the things that I was ultimately conscious of before I went out to India was that it would be rude of me to try and impose my culture onto the Indian people (not just because it's not exactly original). It's been one of the most pleasant, yet stressful experiences to spend two months having to adapt to a foreign culture. I guess the majority of travellers pass through, observing, but in order to be able to gain the respect and trust of these people, we have to engage with them according to their customs and beliefs. This has been difficult - not in that their beliefs are difficult to understand - but that there are plenty of things in British Culture which are inappropriate to India. I bet there are many occasions when I've managed to mess up without knowing it - but I'm slowly getting the hang of 'engaging brain before speaking.'
Since being back, I've also been back to my old school in Solihull. Having spoken to the headmistress to thank them for their donations towards Medical Boxes for some orphan homes that our charity have provided, she was very keen on trying to build up links between the charity I'm working for and my old school. It'd be fantastic to have a longitudinal project that the school can follow year on year - especially as we're just at the start of the whole process, and we're bound to see some rather fantastic consequences of our presence. It's great how many Indians that I have met want us to use them to help their own people. It's what it's all about after all. We're a catalyst for the change, not the change itself.
Taking the message of being the catalyst, my ex-headmistress asked me to come and talk at the school to try and encourage the children to get more active with the charity. Whilst I was out in India I was priveleged to meet groups who came out from Nottingham, and live their whole life to help other people. At home they didn't have a break as I'm doing now - they lived in the 'worst estates' so that they could start to open the channels of communication with the people living there to help them out of their problems. That is the spirit that I want my old school to focus on. These guys are the real heroes and I'm sure after doing work such as this, that coming out to India will be a much smaller step to take, than straight from their middle class upbringing. Whilst I'm back over the summer, I want to find local charities in Birmingham that do soup kitchens in the evenings and need extra volunteers. I want to work with secular and religious groups. When I was growing up, it wasn't that these opportunities weren't available, but I wasn't made aware of them. If I can help make a younger generation aware - then I'll be the catalyst.
If you do already run some kind of soup kitchen or charitable event in and around Birmingham, please get in touch by commenting below. One of the biggest criticisms I got before going out to India was 'Why aren't you doing charity work at home?" - put to me by Michael Wood. Well this has been playing on my conscience, so I'm trying to do something about it now.