Unpacking India

I’m back home in the States after these past several weeks in India; though I packed light (physically and metaphorically), there will be a significant unpacking over the coming days and weeks. I’ve worked or lived in something like twenty countries over the past ten years and have, I think, some resiliency concerning cultural entry and travel. However, this trip has tested some of my limits; it’s not so much India itself (though there is that thing with the full on mass of people and sound crashing headlong upon new arrivals), it’s more the subject matter we were dealing with and my own response to it.
I have some theoretical understanding of trafficking and prostitution (I’ve read a good deal and have come across the issues in past work); however, I’ve never completely assessed what I would have to call my own spiritual response to them. That sounds implausible (or seems so to me) as I’m supposedly concerned with the matter; but there is a difference between what can be a genuine concern and a more complete assessment of the deeper heart connexion between why people do dark things and where those kinds of things reside in one’s own person.

We came to matters that I have difficulty understanding. I can understand the language that was spoken, I understand the reality of what is happening; but I cannot understand within myself how I would do these things. We spoke much about the issues that women face in India; what we did not consider as much are the spirits of men in the country. Yes, the women are in a dark place; but it’s the men looming over that casts the shadow. I’m trying to avoid some kind of blanket judgement as three weeks in any place (especially a place as large and diverse as India) will reveal little about its complete nature. What I must do though is take what we’ve experienced and contrast it with my self-knowledge (as I think that’s the purpose of travel to begin with).

What is my own nature concerning women and does it contribute to that shadow over them? I’m not sure that is the entire question (as it makes an assumption that men are essentially in the position to decide whether the shadow is cast or not—which is a larger discussion concerning the self-empowerment of women and the assumptions that are made concerning power). There are practical manifestations of power in the world that we see every day; but I want to take care not to work from a false paradigm to begin with and then feel all comfortable because I’ve overcome it. It would be relatively simple for me to say ‘I don’t fit into this category of men’ and place myself firmly into another category that is equally dis-empowering (to myself and, potentially, the women I know).

A couple times on the trip I caught myself in a ‘wait; what is happening here inside me’ moment. It’s so easy, especially when considering the extremes of these situations, to separate oneself out from ‘them’. I can’t fathom prostituting my own wife; but wait, there is something there—I cannot distance myself so far from a man who would do this that I need not consider the roots of the matter inside me.

Right now I am massively jet-lagged but want to begin the unpacking while the thoughts are still fresh; much more to come soon.