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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Reading and Realization

One of my favorite things to do these days is reading Indian fiction. One book was a historical-fiction work that focused on the lives of Shah Jehan's (famous for the Taj Mahal) parents, an Emporer and Empress of Mughal India. A second book focused on the cultural understandings of how residents of an apartment building in Mumbai deal with the circumstances of a poor man who has lived on their building steps. Another book retold the life of an Indian woman and the various struggles she must face through marriage, family differences, motherhood, war and widowhood. Each of these poignant works have done two things: opened my eyes up to the social and religious struggles in India, and also brought me to the realization that I truly have learned so much about India. Now I know that the cultural differences in India are as numerous as the population count, I'm again very excited about how very much I have learned. When I read these accounts, I can easily understand what they are talking about when they mention sati or pooja, when a particular food is mentioned, when a particular character faces persecution for something, that any typical American would never understand. Just like a person cannot fully understand marriage or parenthood until they are actually in the midst of it, I know I will not fully comprehend all that India has in store. But, I am again, one step closer to empathy. You cannot minister to people if you do not understand them, their culture or their situation. One can easily judge others if one has not walked in the shoes of others. And so, through the wonder of books, I can at least imagine walking in their shoes.

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