About a month ago, I had the fortune of having dinner with a friend of mine from home back in Washington, DC. A fellow student of International Policy, for three years she travelled through North Africa, Middle East, South East Asia and two months in Northern India. So when she asked me about our trip, I realized I had yet to sit down and reflect on what I had experienced for two weeks in Gujarat.
The trip for me was one of many firsts. It was my first time traveling for academic research; my first time to India; my first time travelling with more than two people and the first time I would be fully awake to a state struggling to stay afloat in a sea of relative deprivation.
As I spoke with my friend about what I had seen, what I experienced, and how I had felt, I began to realize that the complexity of the journey had laid in a multitude of layers both directly and indirectly. All of this complexity took place in just two short weeks and to this day, it still feels like a sudden flash of light as so much of what poured out came from the reality of what I saw everyday. The reality of what the many complex social groups and individuals of India must face on a day-to-day basis has truly created this aura of resilience. In the reality of life in Gujarat after the genocide of 2002, individuals are doing much more than just surviving, they are utilizing what they have to go above and beyond. To me survival is a choice; you choose to continue moving forward in spite of whatever adversity you may have faced. Yet, the people we met while in Gujarat were doing more than just surviving; they are utilizing their pain and trauma to bounce back, advocate and be a voice for those without one.
In this resilience, I reflected on the twinkle of moments each day that shined brightly and gave us hope. Whether it was the Muslim woman who survived the 2002 violence, living in an IDP colony, and telling us the story of the Hindu family whom hid her and helped her escape. The social activist and international celebrity who passionately speaks of the moral obligation we have to share a voice for those who can’t. There were also the many moments of joy within our group that our brought us together; surviving a case of stomach ailments, long days of interviews and research, copious different styles of cuisine, etc. Those moments helped all of us get through the days we didn’t think we could.
My point with this story is this: In the land of contrast, India showed us the struggles, pains, obstacles, and darkness that many face everyday while simultaneously shining a light on the moments in humanity where you move forward towards peace and equality for yourself and for others. The shining moments may be few and far between sometimes, but what is important is the celebration of those victories to help you get passed the darkness. India taught me the importance of one day at a time, and the importance of a balance between the realism of the contemporary world and the beauty of humanity.