I am sitting in my room as I write this – in my underwear. I have just washed all my clothes by hand. Refusing to pay the 300 rupee the guesthouse wanted to do my laundry, I chose to spend 10 rupee on a bar of soap instead. I can only do this because I have time. Not so much money, but lots of time. I worked damn hard to buy this time. And now that I have it, I will use it to save me money whenever I can. The simple things soothe the soul.
Today I have been overcome with gratitude. Gratitude for the experiences I have been lucky enough to have, and for the opportunities I have been given. I created many of these opportunities through working hard and making the most of my options. But today I was reminded that had I not been given the most basic ingredients for survival – from birth – I probably would not have had the means to create any of this. What if I had not been given an education, good food, clean water, clothes and somewhere safe to sleep? All of these things we so often take for granted. We think they are a human right. And perhaps they are. But not everyone receives them. It is important to make the most of what we have – but it is also important to be grateful for the things we are given.
I realised today this is why I have been feeling guilty when I see such suffering. Because I was fortunate enough to have been given a good start, when others are not. I do not know what determines the hand we are dealt, but I am most grateful for the one I received.
Today I met a man. He makes a lot of money and was eager to tell me all about it. He is Indian. He speaks very good English. He went to a private school. And he is in Delhi on holiday for four days. Of course he has been to Delhi countless times on business, he says. But this time, he is on holiday. For four days. He wants to talk finance, and business, and about his new Mercedes.
“Four days is a short holiday,” I say.
‘Time equals money,” he replies.
Today I met a woman. She doesn’t make very much money. She is Indian. She works very hard to keep her apartment and send her two children to school. She is a nurse. Her husband works twelve hours a day and travels two hours each way to work. He is gone from 7am until 11pm. This provides them with the most basic necessities. She wants to talk about life, and paint henna tattoos on my hand.
“Do you ever get to take a holiday?” I ask.
“No,” she says,
“Time equals money.”
Today I met a child. She is Indian. She is starving. She grabs my hand at the train station. Not insistently, but ever so gently. She is barefoot. Her skin and hair are dirty. Her eyes are the clearest brown I have ever seen. She doesn’t say anything to me. She can’t speak English. She has not been to school. I give her the little food I have. I wonder what life will be like for her. I know that now, for her, time does not equal money. Time equals a search for the key ingredients for survival. And there is no holiday from that.
Delhi is a city of extremes. There are the incredibly rich, and the incredibly poor. There are few inbetween. It’s estimated at least half of Delhi’s twenty million residents live in the slums.
I know it’s easier to change the channel and turn your back on the disparity. And I don’t have any solutions. It’s the way the world is.
But please just be reminded to be grateful for the hand you were dealt. We all have challenges in our lives. We all have bad days. But it’s so important to keep things in perspective, and to remember how much we do have already in our search for more.