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Back to the Basics

August 29, 2010
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I think living in India has made me rethink the way I live my life. True, Bangalore is a big city, and so is Chicago, and Surabaya. I have lived all my life in big cities. But they are different in many ways.

Surabaya is big, crowded, and has bad traffic in many places, and has some not-so-clean spots throughout the city. To complete legal matters, money is almost always involved: with the police, getting a drivers license, even getting a national ID. Getting to anywhere requires a car, even to the restaurant at the end of my housing complex. The average white collar salary in Surabaya is not powerful enough to pay for cars, luxury meals, nor houses. To survive in Surabaya, I have to depend on my parents, on their car, their network, and sometimes–their money.

Chicago is also big, crowded, and has bad traffic in many places, but it is a clean city overall, at least in the suburbs areas where I live. What makes it different from Surabaya is the infrastructure and the laws. Public transportation is well-managed and can comfortably be used by anybody. I can take buses and trains with assurance that I will get to my destination on time and without hassle. I also can handle legal matters myself without much confusion. There are rules and procedures to do most things. On top of that, my salary is good enough to afford buying a car, luxury meals, and a house. It is not hard for me to survive in Chicago without dependency on my parents or other people.

Living in Bangalore makes it all different. The city itself may not be much different from Surabaya. But as a foreigner, I stay here almost like a local person in some sense. I now walk a lot more, 2 km round-trip to get groceries, dinner, and some shopping. In Surabaya and Chicago, I would have driven a car! Walking more also means I’m seeing more of the city, the broken pavements on the side of the road, the smelly river, the beggars, the small provision stores, the homeless dogs.. If I start thinking about them, I realize how many things I take for granted all my life. I have to say these things are privileges:

  • Having (almost) unlimited supply of hot water–or simply water–for bathing
  • Excessive supply of food
  • Enough lighting and electric power in the house
  • A good laundry machine that washes my clothes, rinses, and spins them, plus a dryer machine that dries them ’till ready-for-wear
  • A clean house. You know what I mean.
  • Excessive clothes
  • Living with family. Having someone close who I can count on for help and company.
  • A car

For the last item, I have to admit that 10 tops and 4 pants are more than enough for my 4-month stay in India. Given all those clothes are folded, they can fit in one clothes drawer. In contrast, in Chicago I have over 6 drawers of clothes and many many more hung on the rack, not to include those that are in the luggage, brand-new, waiting to be worn. I do have an excess.

Living here in India makes me realize how much of my belongings are unnecessary. I wonder how many things I can strip out and still live a decent life. Many, I’m sure.
I am thankful, Lord, for the blessings you have given me and continue to give me.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 13, 2010 12:01 pm

    After 3 months, I realize I have stacked up some clothes from India as well. Local clothes are generally more durable after several washing here.

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