Since I have returned to the states, I have gotten many questions about my trip. “What did you do?” “What was it like to be in another country?”“How was eating food with your hands?” etc. The most common and seemingly not complex question I hear is, “How was India.” I am never completely sure how to respond to this question. Have you ever been asked, “How is the United States?” I understand the question is from a place of simple curiosity, but it has become a point of reflection for me as I contemplate what the appropriate response is to an apparently simple question.
Much of this internship was centered around understanding social justice organizing. It might be more romantic to think otherwise, but the reality of my job at Vidhayak Sansad consisted more of understanding, observing, and perceiving the organization and its many facets. During my time in India, Tara and I had the privilege of interviewing and composing bios for 230 girls at the Vidhayak Sansad Residential School. I also had the chance to create a beautiful, fun, and meaningful school garden with the students. In addition to these main projects, I was able to visit villages, meet local government leaders, participate in important ceremonies, and build lasting relationships with the staff and inhabitants of Vidhayak Sansad. Through this internship experience I’ve gotten to see reality verses expectation, which I would argue is a huge part of social justice organizing. NGO’s are not immune to the seventh principle of UUism; NGO’s can be a diverse and multifaceted web of interlocking parts. I was involved with this interlocking world in an eastern country affected by a different dominant religion, a different social structure, a different political realm, and a different set of customs — all of which was set in a living, breathing social justice organization. I’m sure you are now wondering how this leads back to the question, “How was India?”
I vastly enjoyed my involvement in this organization. I believe the work I did will effectively provide Vidhayak Sansad with the support they desired. My experience solidified my understanding of the not so romantic realism of organizing in an unfamiliar place. My answer to this question should be as vast and wonderful as my experience working there was, but my true answer will probably be more along the lines of “It was a great experience” or “I really enjoyed my time with the organization.” So please know that when I respond with one of these appropriately vague phrases, I genuinely want you to keep asking more questions. One question is not enough for me to describe the complexity of my experience without over generalizing or oversimplifying India and my time spent there. Until we start asking the deeper questions we will never know “how India is.” If my time at Vidhayak Sansad has taught me anything, it has trained me to keep asking those deeper and important questions because if not, we can never truly understand reality.