How do We view the world? How do I view the world?

At our Niswarth meeting on Wednesday afternoon we had a series of discussions. The group is finally beginning to come together. We are much more comfortable around each other and our discussion really benefit from this. As we sat in the stuffy bullfinch classroom we talked about everything from proper attire to art as a means of survival. However the part of the meeting that really interested me was when Brad posed the question: What do we expect the slums in India, specifically Daravi to be like? This question really made me think, not just about what I expected to find in three weeks when I arrive in India, but also about how many preconceived notions I may have. Are my grandfathers tales of India ten years ago really where I should be getting my information? Is Slumdog millionaire a better source? Until we arrive I doubt I will truly know. But is important to remember that assumptions are hugely powerful. We need to be conscience of how they will affect the way we meet people, view ideas, or integrate into a community.

Eventually, this question ended up leading to a discussion of how one approaches a community and how YOU approach a community. Is there a right way? We came to the conclusion nearly everyone had a different way of going about meeting a community. We engaged in some polite disagreement, a complete change for a meeting a few weeks ago when no one would have dared contradict another. We also found that when approaching a community, the common attitude is “we are better, we are here to help.” As a group we come to the consensus that this mentality was hurtful and pity is not a way of meeting a community. No matter how terrible a situation seems to us, we cannot assume that the community does not have pride, does not have value or is a community of people forced to be together rather than choosing to be.

So as we explored what we knew about India, the communities we would be working with, and our assumptions about both, we were becoming a community ourselves. I am sure 10+ hour plan ride will bond us further, but I am truly glad for the orientation opportunities to help us become a group.