Once you figure out the system…

So I am now much less intimidated by the train stations. Yes, they are overwhelming in so many ways (the sheer number of people obviously living in them, the dogs, the trash, the smells, the poop) but at least we’ve figured out the basic system–which honestly might have seemed more confusing than it actually was due to a combination of culture shock, extreme exhaustion and the irrational fear of bring stuck in Delhi again.

I sort of feel bad for my Delhi-hate, it just happened to be our first foray into a very different world and we blamed the city for the issues caused by the few inhabitants trying to eek out a living fleecing foreigners. Who can blame them? In retrospect I might like to visit the city again with a different mindset. Don’t get me wrong, the constant bombardment of people trying to get us to buy crap and go places we don’t want to go is annoying as hell but to some extent don’t we deserve some amount of annoyance for traipsing about their country with generally a better standard of living and a sense of entitlement? I don’t have a clear answer but I’m currently falling somewhere in the middle.

Do I really need to be annoyed by the lack of english style toilets, toilet paper, litter and poop everywhere? Not really. It’s an interesting conundrum. Every place I’ve gone previously has either been with an NGO group trip or school service learning stuff (or frankly such a bougie vacation-type vacation that these type if issues didn’t really arise), so when I encountered inconveniences or extreme poverty on an unimaginable scale I thought of them more as learning experiences, making connections with people, figuring out ways to improve how I see the world and opportunities to utilize my skills to assist others in solving these bigger problems rather than little annoyances making my vacation harder than it needs to be. It’s interesting how perspective fluctuates so quickly based on mood.

Ian sent a link to an article in one of his comments about how essentially depressed people actually have (in one study) a more realistic perception about the ways on which the world works, which makes some sense. It was interesting because you would think with the rampant ways on which (mostly) women are socialized to hate everything about their bodies, that women would have unrealistic self image in a negative capacity but what’s interesting are that most people saw themselves more positively than their peers did except for depressed people who mostly had accurate perceptions about how others viewed them. I find this fascinating because it pretty much proves our whole system of socialization is flawed on the most basic level. We delude ourselves on a daily basis and spend so much time comparing ourselves to others that we lose sight of what makes us happy both individually and collectively. It becomes about comfort not happiness, money not joy, what others think as opposed to what we think, how others live rather than how we want to live.

Don’t get me wrong, as someone who has struggled with depression my entire life–this study validated my secretly held belief that my somewhat negative world view is just much more realistic than others wanted or cared to believe–just some permutation of the whole adage if you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention type thing. After thinking about it further the whole thing doesn’t sit right because if I remember anything from all those education classes–expectations are essential in learning behavior. So basically if you expect a child to fail they generally fail, if you expect a child to succeed they generally do–again dealing in generalities with a ton of other factors playing a major role. So even if my negative perceptions about what others think is right–in essence aren’t i just projecting expectations onto others which they respond to?

If we want to be better people and live in a better world then we need to change the basis and framework from which we operate and really be more compassionate and understanding. We can’t be naive or unrealistic but we need to remember to try to understand the struggles and pain we all are operating under–which is difficult enough to try to figure out in ourselves let alone others.

I guess this isn’t exactly a vignette about the train from Agra to Jaipur or a retrospective about the Taj (what’s to say? You all know the history and how beautiful it is and frankly my pictures suck) but I’ve been sick, crabby and a bit too introspective the last few days and I’m just trying to wrap my head around the myriad of random ups and downs that have been this fabulous trip and prepare for starting the next adventure now that I’m feeling a bit little better.

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