I remember my first trip to India in 2006. I was immediately both completely overwhelmed and totally captivated. India is an incredible country. It is home to 1.3 billion inhabitants, people from all of the world’s major religious groups, and speakers of 1,600 different languages! The landscape and food is as varied as the people and the laguages. There is just SO MUCH to take in!
India certainly has a way of getting deep into your heart, mind and soul! After 10 years of living here, I see how India has changed me for the better. Here are 4 important ways of being that I’ve learned from my Indian friends:
Indians have taught me to be generous, not just with my resources but with my space, presence, and time. In 10 years here, there has always been enough—enough room in the auto rickshaw for another passenger, enough food for one more guest, enough time in the day to welcome a few more visitors. When a Bihari child is given a chocolate bar, that child will split the bar into as many pieces as there are children in the room in order to share it with everyone. It is truly beautiful.
Indians’ generosity and hospitality have taught me to behold people as precious and plans as flexible. After 10 years, I’m beginning to reinterpret unexpected events in my day as blessings instead of interruptions to my daily schedule. Slowly, I’m learning to share my time, space, and resources a little more freely.
When you share your country with 1.3 billion other people, patience becomes more than a virtue. It is a necessity. As an American, I am culturally conditioned to convenience. I want quick solutions to my problems, and prompt service at restaurants and in checkout lines. Whether waiting for an overworked bureaucrat to finish government paperwork or dinner to be served at a wedding when it is already 11:30 PM, my Indian friends are relaxed and patient. “Dhire dhire ho jayega” (slowly, slowly it will happen) is a common phrase, and it is clear that people have a level of chill that I don’t naturally posses! I’d like to say that I’ve mastered this kind of patience, but lets just say I’m growing and I’m grateful for the challenge!
My Indian friends know how to rest and connect. When we first opened Ziyada, I found it stressful to stop twice a day for chai. I would power through chai and lunch breaks, forever focused my work. But, over time, I was slowly coaxed away from the never ending list of to-dos. And, now, twice a day, I sit with our team, sipping warmly spiced chai. The ritual is has become an important time of rest, connection, and laughter.
India possesses an incredible amount of ingenuity. The Hindi word jugaad doesn’t have an exact English translation, but the term is applied to innovative ideas that provide a quick, alternative, low-cost solution to a problem. Jugaad helps people to thrive when resources are scarce. We see it everyday in pull carts retrofitted with Diesel engines, and old saris repurposed as fishing nets or braided into ropes.
Our Ziyada team has taught me more about how to reduce, reuse, and recycle than my entire US elementary education! We are always finding ways to utilize scraps, and get the most out of every little resource we have. Several new products have been developed simply because our team wanted to make sure that nothing went to waste. Our Tic-Tac-Toe game is one example of this resourcefulness, and it is one of our best selling items now! I’ve learned to take better care of the earth, and steward what I have thoughtfully and creatively from my Indian friends.
I’m so grateful for this place and the beautiful people in it. What a gift it is to learn from my Indian friends, and to be loved and accepted as one of their own!