A few weeks into my trip to northern India I began to dream of the main street in the Connecticut town where I grew up. I thought about how clean it was. I thought about successfully we’ve dominated nature in the attempt to create a perfectly sanitized environment. It was so orderly and comfortable. I had spent the last two days being sick due to some mango juice that I ingested. I couldn’t get a bottle of water that didn’t have a thick layer of dirt over it and the 12 hour drives along the edges of the Himalayan mountains were doing nothing to add to my comfort. At the end of my trip I felt a relief upon returning to America. I felt so grateful to be back in New York so I walked the streets with a big smile on my face saying hello to the passing strangers. They all looked down and carried on with their business. At that moment, a great sadness fell over me. Though the conditions were uncomfortable in India, there was a constant experience of humanity and connectedness. It was a feeling of reverence and respect based on the collective understanding that being human meant that we were in this together. Walking the New York streets and feeling so alone in my celebration made me aware of this difference.
A young man that I met in Rishikesh told me his belief that “India and America are like two wings of a bird. India is strong in spirituality, but weak materially. American is strong materially, but weak spiritually. A bird cannot fly with one strong wing and one weak one.”