life or next one?

We have an intern who is an American PhD candidate. She’s been in India several times before. She speaks Hindi and Urdu. She’s not of Indian origin. Many people in my office compare us, “why don’t you learn like her,” or, “she can teach you Hindi.” I’m lost at the comparison, and yet it still manages to upset me to a small extent. It’s not fair because she’s studied those languages intensively, and has lived in India before. Plus, why would I have to learn from another American, don’t all my coworkers already speak Hindi? My one coworker has started speaking to me much more in Hindi in order to help me out. I appreciate her effort so much.
Anyway, Kate, knows a lot about Indian culture that I don’t. For some reason we spoke about the carelessness of life. We were on my bike and talking about driving safety (e.g. wearing a helmet – which I always do), and about people’s carelessness. My example was from when I spoke with a friend of mine about wearing his helmet on his bike. He drives slightly more recklessly than me, doesn’t wear a helmet, and doesn’t have mirrors on his bike. He said wearing a helmet makes driving harder, and is uncomfortable. I tried to take the whole, but it will potentially save your life route to wearing a helmet. And his response was, “so?” I was shocked. Not even saving his life was a concern. He didn’t even make an excuse saying, “I know but,” he just said he didn’t care. I couldn’t believe this. He’s a well-educated, smart guy, with many aspirations in life, and he didn’t care. How? After recounting this story to Kate she told me something about Indian, specifically Hindi culture. They so faithfully believe in reincarnation and a next life, or that the end of this life isn’t the end and that this life is already planned out, that they feel they don’t have control over these things. Everything is destiny, predestined. Of course this is a mass generalization, but it did shed some light on the behaviors of many of my friends. If everything is supposed to happen then it will happen as it’s destined to happen. She also said that it also makes community organizing a lot more difficult. If people were born into a lower class or need to advocate for environmental rights, they don’t, because they believe that this is just the cards they, the world, or whoever, was dealt. If it’s not so good, then maybe you’ll come back as a better life form next time. It’s an interesting perspective.
I can still say that I’m happy to be proactive about saving my life, making the world a better place, and all that rosy stuff. Although some things about me have changed, as they were undoubtedly going to do, that hasn’t.
Another interesting thing I learned while another friend was on the back of my bike was that Tuesdays and Saturdays are inauspicious days. You’re not supposed to get married or wear a new item of clothing, or do anything super special on those days. Gaytri’s cousin-sister (sometimes related but sometimes not related but still called cousin-sister, sometimes called sister) is getting married. She’s upset because she will have to get the mendhi (henna) done on Monday. Her wedding is on a Thursday. Wednesday will be filled with ceremonies, Tuesday is the “bad luck day” and then there’s Monday. Her mendhi won’t be as crisp and clean and that’s no fun. I understand. New looking mendhi is beautiful, after a few days, it fades and isn’t as pretty. Why is she getting married on a Thursday? Because it’s the auspicious day for her and her husband to be – that’s written in the stars.

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