Although I have enjoyed every day so far in Mumbai, yesterday was by far the cultural turning point for me. Since our previous days were mostly filled with business meetings and bus rides, I felt like I had experienced the international business culture of India, but not necessarily the true heart that lies in the soul of this compassionate country.
On our way to Om Creations, we were able to get off of the bus and witness the work of skilled men washing clothes in the river for a special laundry service. Their work was very intricate and methodical, but most surprising was the fact that this traditional kind of washing is still popular in India. Contrastingly, in the United States, machine has long replaced the work of hands. Although I enjoyed seeing this cultural ritual of sorts, my favorite part of the experience was my interaction with a man selling bananas by the workers. I was intrigued by his gentle face and stared at him for perhaps too long. However, he did not look away. Instead, when I smiled at him, he returned the smile genuinely. While many Indians live in poverty so great that many Americans could not even imagine, everyone I’ve seen here seems to be surprisingly content. They do not seem to lament their condition, but rather live life with a pleasant spirit. I’ve observed that people here are not afraid to smile at strangers and do not look away in fear or shame as even I can admit to doing in the elevator or while walking down the street in LA. For that, and for the gentle, kind-hearted nature that I have encountered with every Indian so far, I have gained an even greater respect and admiration for big heart of this country. When I think about all of the kindness I have encountered here, I can’t help but think the heart of India is a little bananas.