I arrived home in Melbourne about two weeks ago…and to be honest life is almost too easy here! While in Varanasi (and also after while travelling) we often joked about how much extra effort every little daily task required there in comparison to being at home. And trust me, in being home I am now so much more aware of how ridiculously effortless life can be here! Maybe part of this is because of the familiarity of my life here, even after six months it seems that my human ability to adapt has kicked straight into gear making me feel as if I never left, in a way.
In saying this however, it is really great to be home in many ways- to see family and friends first and foremost, as well as to have somewhere to settle, to no longer have to live out of a suitcase and to have personal space- something which is pretty hard to come by in India.
In returning, I think that I have become even more aware of just how LUCKY I, and the majority of Australians are. I mention ‘luck’, because to me it is simply that which decides whether you are born into a well-off family in the suburbs of Melbourne with the opportunity to receive a good education, have your every need met (and often your desires also) and to have the ability to live up to your potential; OR whether you are born into a low-caste family in Varanasi whose five members live in a two square-metre ‘hut’ on the side of the road, work from sunrise to sunset just to afford food, and in turn means that your education is jeopardized, and thereby your ability to reach your full potential is made particularly difficult.
With this in mind, I have aimed to recognize and show my appreciation for all that I have in my life that I am grateful for more openly and more often. Yet, as I reflect on how lucky I am, I have still managed to feel somewhat upset at times while I’ve been home…because, quite honestly, even though life used up more effort and energy in India, I absolutely loved it! And as such, it is quite hard to settle back into my life at home. In search of inspiration for these conflicting feelings in my head, I must of course turn to Dr Seuss, whose voice of wisdom tells me, “Don’t cry coz it’s over, smile coz it happened.”
The only glitch about adapting this philosophy is that it would require me to be smiling for eternity. Because, quite honestly, the last six months hold incredibly fond memories for me, first and foremost my time in Varanasi, but also my time exploring India and Nepal. Every moment, even those moments which at the time may have posed as negatives, produced for me something new, something challenging, something exciting, something heartbreaking or simply something that made me smile. In essence, there never really was a dull moment amongst the amazing diversity and cultural frenzy, which essentially, is India.
Over my time away I learnt a lot, and probably more than I’ll ever be able to consciously realize. As previously mentioned, an appreciation for my life in Australia was one of those. Although, on the other hand, I also learnt how incredibly strong, brave, inspirational, and happy, people who appear to have so little in material goods can be. Most inspiring to me are my beautiful hostel girls, who have been through situations that no child should have to go through, and live on top of 28 other girls…yet they still showed me daily how strong and happy they could be.
I think by having the opportunity to live in a community which is made up predominantly of people who in our generic definition, ‘live below the poverty line’, or in the case of India’s definition ‘are of a low caste’; I was able to gain a stronger understanding of how this community of our world lives, and what makes them tick. In essence, I learnt that what we worry about in the developed world (ie. ‘first world problems’) are (excuse the bluntness) pretty damn pathetic.
From my reflections, I think that this has been one of the hardest things about returning home. That is, being around people who feel that they need to complain about the most minute things; for example, two girls (strangers to me…so I may have been slightly eavesdropping) who complained as if it was literally killing them, about the fact that Melbourne had not produced adequate tanning weather for them this summer. I don’t think that I can express how much I wanted to turn around and lecture them about how incredibly lucky they are and to count their blessings!
However, I shall not try to be too self-righteous, as I am sure that in being home I have just as quickly adapted to some of the worries of our Western world and have at times lost perspective. When I catch myself worrying about trivial issues though, I am now definitely more qualified in reassuring myself that it’s going to be alright, I have all that I need.
In being home, I think that the biggest challenge that I am now going to face is how to implement my passion for change and all that I have learnt into my life. Every now and then, while I was away, I would have a moment of inspiration for acting for change, and I will now strive towards channeling some of those moments into action.