Unraveling and Unfolding India: Initial Thoughts and Reflections
I’ve been asked dozens of times now, “How was India?” And each time I’ve struggled to find a way to respond that sums up the cacophony of feelings that make me smile and laugh, haunt me, and push me into new depths of growth. The reality is there are many ways to answer the question; none of which are simple or quick. If it were, at least for me, then it would diminish the richness of the experience and my relationships with my cohort peers, our hosts, and the phenomenal people we met. It would also reduce layers of unprocessed feelings and reflections.
For me, our India trip was complicated, beautiful, challenging, inspiring, overwhelming, confusing, amazing, exhausting, nourishing, frustrating, engaging, bonding, fracturing, disheartening and humbling. There is no one definitive moment or story that feels like a logical starting point to answer “how was it,” which is why writing this blog has felt somewhat tedious, superficial, and premature.
So…after all that, why the picture? I took this picture at the Gandhi Museum on our first day in India. Not surprisingly, the museum walls, halls, and rooms were filled with Gandhi’s story, pictures, philosophies, and quotes. As I was wandering through the museum trying to soak in as much as I could, I paused at this particular picture and quote. It drew me in both because it spoke to the concept of beloved community and the hope that I have for our cohort (and movement), and because the enormity and reality of doing what Gandhi says above is, and feels, so hard.
As we progressed through our India journey, the challenge of knitting together a world with friendship and love in opposition to wrong felt heavier and heavier. How do we come together in opposition to wrong when some of the wrongs are reflected directly back on, and in, us? How do we transcend our differences and transform movements, systems, institutions and societies – and ourselves – so there is no “last girl” and all that she represents? How do we do this with integrity, honesty, accountability, love, patience, urgency, courage, trust, and authenticity, particularly when the risks are so different for each of us?
And something that I’m grappling with post-India is, how do I sustain my faith that we can build, deepen and leverage our friendships and commitment to ending gender-based violence when power, privilege, and oppression is so entrenched in everything, including within me? These are just some of the questions that haunt my mind and tug at my heart and hopes.
On this same day at the Gandhi Museum we had my favorite panel of the trip. One of our panelists ended her time by saying, “The means are about the end, and the means are the end.” While this is not a new concept or something I haven’t thought about before (in fact, probably too much!), it was noted in my little notebook in all caps and underlined. Frankly, after India I feel less clear about what the destination is and how we are going to get there. I do feel a clear sense of desperation and yearning that our cohort, Move to End Violence, and our movement needs to talk about this more. I see this an essential and meaningful part of our work moving forward as a cohort, moving our movement, and moving ourselves, myself included.
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