Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Human Interdependence

Mahatma Gandhi’s theory concerning human nature stresses three essential principles regarding humans. In my time in Kalimpong, I noticed that the second basic truth within this philosophy was both completely accurate and relevant; Gandhi claims that humans are “necessarily interdependent and [form] an organic whole” (Parekh 51). This interconnectivity is firmly based within the family – which is obviously a central component we Colby students noticed immediately upon arrival at the Gandhi Ashram School. Gandhi’s philosophy contends that “individuals [owe] their existence to their parents, [for] without [their] countless sacrifices they would neither survive nor grow into sane human beings. They realized their potential in a stable and peaceful society… they [then go on to become] rational, reflective, and moral beings” (Parekh 51). In other words, familial ties and support are the ultimate source of the sense of humanity I experienced and admired SO MUCH in nearly every student and family I encountered in Kalimpong. In the second week of classes, I was feeling exhausted after a full day of classes, but decided against my best judgment to walk down to Srijana’s house with a handful of other students. We took shortcuts through gardens, dirt paths, neighbor’s backyards, and immediately upon arrival at her house, we were given warm hugs and genuine smiles from at least fifteen complete strangers. After copious amounts of sugary tea and cookies, Srijana and her two sisters had a field day dressing Lane, Cassie and me in traditional saris (and even lipstick for eye shadow) – and then proceeded to match us up with ‘husbands’ for photos (and taught us seductive dance moves to Nepali pop songs for our new matches). Moreover, just witnessing this affectionate family interact made me miss my family at home. They were so affectionate, caring and happy. Three of Srijana’s family members (including both of her parents) are deaf, but I knew by their body language and steady smiles that they were delighted just to have us in their home. They didn’t want us to leave – and I didn’t want to either. On the drive back to school for dinner, all I could think about was how giving and loving her family was – Gandhi would perhaps respond to this with: “Every human being owe[s] his humanity to others… [and that the only thing] that human beings [can] do [is] to ‘recognize the conditions of their existence,’ and continue the ongoing universal system of interdependence by discharging their duties and contributing to collective well-being” (Parekh 52). Srijana’s family typified this notion on my visit, and some of my favorite students truly drove this idea home on the last day of classes. I hate admitting it, but I had favorite students; however, little did I know that they liked me nearly as much as I adored them. I was given a few family photos with personal notes written on the back – messages like: “Please don’t forget me,” and “I liked your funny violin games Emily.” I hadn’t met their families, but I was given such a precious, important piece of what really matters to these children. At the risk of sounding cliché, these students recognized the concrete importance of family, and such a simple gift revealed how deeply woven family really is into many aspects of their lives. I also thought I would include a poem written by Rabindranath Tagore (the same poet that Professor Roy read aloud at the candlelit reading on our last night in Kalimpong & a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913) that I found particularly appropriate and poignant: Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life. This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales, and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new. At the immortal touch of thy hands my little heart loses its limits in joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable. Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine. Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill.

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