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Best to know neighbors regardless of distance

Best to know neighbors regardless of distance Best to know neighbors regardless of distance

India and Indiana; two different places with very similar names. We have just returned from a 17-day tour of what is billed as ‘The Heart of India.’
Jet lag is dragging me constantly back to my own bed. It took us more than 30 hours to navigate the 16-hour flight with all its transportation connections. One might wonder why anyone should go to such a place when we can stay at home and watch ‘Bollywood’ on TV, find everything on the Internet, dine at an Indiana Indian restaurant or even visit the many Indian doctors that serve us daily.
I have often stated that if we Hoosiers throw away our uniqueness, who will want to come and visit us? In this world with ‘sameness’ taking over, tourism, business and learning trips could become pass’. After this, my second trip to India, I would say ‘it won’t happen soon in India.
Seventeen and a half percent of the world’s population lives in India; that’s 1,262,860,000 people. Compare that with the USA with its 319,134,000 people and Indiana with its six million. India is the world’s largest democracy, with 66.38 percent voter turnout in last spring’s election. India’s economy is the 10th largest in the world, and it has the third-largest purchasing power. We are their second-biggest export partner. It is often the voices of those in India’s call centers that answer our phone questions. We are very inter-connected with this seemingly faraway place.
Let’s look at some of the differences and some of the similarities between India and Indiana.
In India, there metropolises to rural areas, where the majority of the citizens live and work, jam-packed with people. There are cows wandering everywhere in accord with the Hindu religion’s practice of never harming them for food consumption or sanitary conditions. Discarded trash, which pigs and cows scavenge for food, litters India. There are few traffic signs and a wide variety of vehicles sharing the same lanes of roads. Cattle, water buffalo, cars, rickshaws, buses, bikes, camels, motorcycles, trucks and walkers all keep a fast pace while dodging each other and constantly honking their horns. Along the roads, small vendors sell everything that can be sold. Electric wires run in tangled confusion around buildings and through the sky. The pollution burns one’s eyes, and the dust soils your clothes.
But, amidst all this are the ever-constant and beautiful colorful saris worn by most women, no matter what their chore. There are phone towers all over India and, even if the sanitation conditions are poor, the Internet connections are top grade in many remote areas.
The most promising aspect of India is the collective mood of the people. They look eager to get going and satisfied with the route they see before them.
Back home again in Indiana, we have traffic jams occasionally in the cities but all respond politely to the system of traffic control. Our interstate highways are updated with safety features and constant repairs. Our small towns ponder how they can attract more people and activity. When we hear a horn, we scowl at the impatient driver.
In Indiana, we just had an election with a turnout of 41 percent. Our women wear blue jeans like a uniform or clothing dictated by their roles in work and play. We have sidewalks, curbs and drainage systems. Our poverty is less visible but just as painful for those who struggle.
What are all these comparisons about? It is a matter of how we relate to each other. We are one world, and we ignore that fact at our own peril. If we cast India off as a faraway place with strange customs and inadequate infrastructure, we lose the lessons to be learned by observing their society. There are benefits and dangers to sharing the planet with such a gigantic population that is aware of the resources in other places and wants them also to share them.
Life in India has been tracked back millions of years. You can see it in their existing temples, forts, arts, religious and cultural practices. I would imagine that they have picked up some collective wisdom through time. It’s best we not brush them aside as just exotic and mysterious. Man is always trying to figure out who he is and what he should do. Great Indian thinkers and social activists have influenced the innovation and development of civilization. We can avoid some of the nonproductive and painful attempts at progress if we study their causes and results.
India is a fertile valuable textbook for us to analyze such social issues as separation by human class systems, the need for social responsibility in a democracy and the complexities and importance of a strong judicial system.
I love visiting and studying the country of India, but, as the old saying goes, ‘I wouldn’t want to live there.’ Two visits to India, an expert does not make. These comments are just thoughts that have gone on in my head as, through my Indiana-trained eyes, I spent time in an important and exciting land.
Some have questioned why we wanted to go to a place with ‘unsafe water, dust and poverty.’ My answer is this: ‘India and Indiana; we are close neighbors. It is in my best interest to know them.’

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