If asked, most people in New Zealand would say that they are truly grateful.
Grateful for their education. Grateful for their health. Grateful for their opportunities.
Prior to India, I would’ve said the same thing – and I still would. However, I feel that before I set foot in Bangalore, my first city in India, my expressions of gratitude were indeed sincere but lacking perspective. I meant what I said, I was certainly grateful, but the true extent and reasons as to why lacked depth. I hadn’t truly experienced or understood hardship, extreme poverty, or a lack in the simple things that we in New Zealand would deem as necessities.
India has given me perspective. From not being able to walk 5 minutes without seeing a beggar, to widespread disability, to homelessness, to Dharavi – the largest slum in Asia.
To say that I felt discomfort is an understatement. Certain experiences have been burned into my mind, experiences of discomfort that I don’t think I will ever forget. However, discomfort is important. Discomfort is what creates perspective. It helps one to truly recognise firsthand what life could’ve been like. It helps one recognise their fortune and privilege. It helps one to be truly grateful.
However, one thing that I have learnt is that discomfort shouldn’t make one feel guilty. It should inspire, inspire oneself to make the most use possible out of the cards that they’ve been dealt. Not to waste the opportunities afforded to them and, if anything, give back.
Out of the whole trip, my whole trip to India, the best visit was to a not-for-profit charity called Jaipur Foot. Not the Taj Mahal, not Amer Fort, not the pink city, but Jaipur Foot.
Having produced over 1.83 million prosthetics, the organisation builds feet, limbs, callipers, and various other aids for free, in a matter of hours. They do not require referrals or appointments, with individuals from all over India and the world arriving and leaving every day. A typical replacement would cost upwards of USD 15,000 yet Jaipur Foot manages to make prosthetics at USD 60 and below, free of charge to the customer.
The best part of the NGO is that many, if not all, of the leading executives work salary free. We had the opportunity to meet one of these individuals (I forgot to take his name), but his sincerity and compassion to give back without pay, despite having had previous notable and high paying government/business positions, was admirable and inspiring.
My greatest takeaway from my experience in India is that I must too give back. How I do not know. But my perceived purpose in life has definitely been shifted.
Perhaps I will start my own charity. Or keep it simple and help out locally. Hell, I could even move back to India and work at Jaipur Foot! The world truly is my, and anyone’s, oyster in terms of what is possible.