Welcoming and tolerating
A couple weeks ago, I was playing cricket with some locals. One of them asked me what I liked about the different countries that I lived in before, including India. I answered 'family' for China because I still have a lot of family on my mom’s side living there. I answered 'friends' for the US because all the people that I interact with regularly live in the US. For India, the word 'strangers' rolled off my tongue extremely well. It was because the strangers in India have been really interesting and welcoming. Take the fact that we just walked up to the grounds and started playing cricket with some strangers. I would be too lazy to teach a sport to someone new and then ease them into the game instead of just playing the game ourselves. But I guess that’s just what the people in India do.
On a similar story, our GCIL team decided on an idea for our project this past week and were introduced to this company called Goonj during one of the meetings. Goonj takes donated materials and distributes them to villages in need of it. It was a company that we could use to model our idea after. Therefore we were very anxious to meet them.
The next day, without any sort of appointment, we walked into the Goonj office in Bangalore. It was a total cold call and we were hoping that they could answer a couple of brief questions at least. For some reasons, we were greeted as if we were expected to be there and were led into the office to chat, despite the mountain of donated materials waiting to be sorted outside. We got more than the answers we needed from our questions as we were informed about the entire company history and operation. If that wasn’t enough, we were offered to go tour their bigger warehouse where we saw materials of all kinds as well as products that they had upcycled themselves. We were even invited to dance with them to practice for their anniversary celebration and were fed snacks. At that point, we were all in awe of our warm welcome from such a sudden visit. It was quite a pleasant, surprising afternoon.
I can’t imagine many of these interactions would happen in the US or China. I felt that I violated many local rules and customs many times. Yet, they just shook their head side to side as if they were saying, “This is not good, but I’m ok with it.” This extreme flexibility that exists in India is something that I’ve never experienced before. So I would like to take this blog to appreciate all these strangers in India for welcoming, assisting, and tolerating us foreigners.