Wednesday, February 1, 2012

An external Perspective

I learnt a new thing in January. There is something called the developing worlds EYES and there is something called the DEVELOPED world eyes. Eyes being a synonym for the multiply laced perspectives that define how we see and what we see of the world. 

Sitting by the sea side of a little cafe in Phu quoc, Vietnam, we struck up a conversation with a middle aged couple from Canada. As travel conversations tend to go, we were soon trading tips on where to go and what to see. 

The couple began talking about the most vivid moment that they had in they journey so far. A visit to the floating village in Cambodia. Hmm floating village, sounds interesting. "oooh you have to go there, what ever you do you must not miss this. its remote so very different, these people dont have anything, they are living in an ancient way, with even the schools on water. Electricity isnt there. Its unimaginable. The sheer will power and courage of them is remarkable"

The developing country Indian in me quipped back. That does sound interesting, the floating part of it, but the rest that you mentioned is a part and parcel of a large portion of developing nations and there are zillion of cases of people managing a life without the luxury of these resources. 

Thats when it hit me. 

At some level I have Indian eyes. am accustomed to seeing a lot of hardship, its normal for me to open the paper and hear about honour killings, its acceptable to see a village that is living with little to no power, and its more than normal for there to be rich, poor, and middle class. The attitude of this is how it is has been ingrained. I no longer 'see' this as alarming, no longer does it jolt me, it is what it is. 

Does that make the developing nation - cynical ? or worse indifferent? Maybe. 
Does that make the developed nation - more caring? more responsive.. Not sure. 

For the record, we did go to the village. The 'Floating' part was true. Each house was fashioned on a foundation of oil drums, on which wooden planks were nailed down and on that a house made. Effective solution, for flooding, as the house simply rose when the water rose. 

The other bits, about being the most remote island ever. Blah! Each house had TV, there was a convent school, a medical clinic, cafe, a harbour boat pier, each tourist was charged 20 dollars to see them, little girls were accustomed to playing with pythons to get tips and the regular tourism showcase was on. 

My developing nation eyes - were disappointed. 

Somehow one notices more when they are traveling, than when they are living by within the comfort zone. 

Everyday, events that one takes for granted in the lives of people back- home and refuses to get alarmed by are things that evoke a reaction elsewhere. Too theoretical a statement, that is. lets simplify it. At a construction site near my house, families are engaged in construction. The children of these students, lay out the mat, get the books and study below the light of the lamp. A very cliched Indian moment. So cliched that even the President of India, used this as an Idiom to depict 'struggle'. As did Mr. Bagchi. 

The example, isnt to demean the struggle at all, rather used to highlight the matter of fact manner in which everyone around them responds to the very visible economic divide. So normal it is, that an emotional reaction isnt evoked.

Maybe to someone touring Asia for the first time, it would be an alarming sight to observe. 

The interesting twist to this though is an observation. It doesnt take long for a developed eye person to get the cultural sensitivity of the developing ones.  Things that alarm you at first, quickly become the norm. The beggar children are not given sweets by week 5, by week 6 one learns to ignore the old lady with the big spectacles and by week 7, one is not wondering why there is a baby playing on the sand pit.