Basu asked a few posts ago whether I have any Indian friends and I realized that I don't have very many friends of any kind. Not here, anyway. That is the trouble with moving a lot. I kept trying to fit in somewhere and I moved to five different states when I left home to go to college.
I now live very close to my best friend from home, she is the main reason that I moved to Maryland.
But now I know that I need more. I need other girl friends. My partner in my dance class is probably moving over seas soon and she doesn't seem too interested in hanging out outside of the events we go to.
I do hope to make friends at Chinmaya, but I know it is going to take a while. Many people there have known each other for years, I would guess. I see people come in and greet their friends and smile and talk and sit together and it makes me feel extremely alone.
Recently I've been doing too many things alone. I learned to do that from my traveling around. I show up at these things and people are welcoming, but it takes time to develop real friendship. (I started out going to Hindi meet-up group alone, but once my boyfriend and I started dating, he decided to learn Hindi also, so we go together now and he always comes with me to dance events, etc.)
Today in the BJ's parking lot I saw three African women finishing up their shopping together. They were dressed in African dresses and turbans. It made me think how much easier it must be to wear ethnic clothes and maintain one's culture when you have friends (or sisters as the case might be) to do things with.
Again, I felt terribly lonely. I suddenly understood why it would be so nice to have other people of your own culture around you. I wish there were more like me. Now, thanks to this blog, I know I'm not totally alone. But still, sometimes I feel a bit like The Doctor, the only one of my kind and there is a profound loneliness.
I do plan to stay in this area for the long term, so I hope I can make some good strong friendships here. (And starting that process, one of the commentors on this blog invited the boyfriend and me to dinner with her family. Little did we realize, we live in the same town! I'm really looking forward to that).
On a completely different note, new discoveries about the caste issue.
I've mentioned before that I feel like one of the real difficulties of Hinduism coming to accept converts is that converts don't have a caste. Even though socially, many have been trying to do away with the caste system for years, it seems to be still very commonly used in terms of what you know about someone. The sort-of social mobility that is built into the American character is not as common in India, from what I understand.
On my last post on this subject, a couple of commenters said the following:
Actually caste is much maligned subject that has been misused for personal benefit.
The 4th Chapter, 13th verse of the Bhagvad Gita explains it in simple terms. Krishna says that he created the 4 castes. This was used widely by many to spread a half truth. The full line is where he says that he created the 4 castes but the caste of a person is decided by actions and qualities.
If one goes backwards and reads about who the authors of many of the books in Hinduism were, they were not born into the high caste families or blood lines. There are other controversial books but one has to see them contextually than in a generic all encompassing manner.
June 3, 2010 3:03 PM
Yes, I agree.
"Chaturvarnam Maya Shristam Guna Karma Vibhagasah" means according to nature and action people are divided into four classes. Ignorant people have made it by birth.
Also, I happened to read in the FAQs section of the ISKON website:
"In Bhagavad Gita (18.42-44), Sri Krishna clearly states that the Varna (caste) of a person is decided by his activities, not by birth"
Now, of course, this doesn't mean that the issue of caste suddenly vanishes. Even if it was meant to be a measure of our behavior more than our birth, it is still heavily used to judge and categorize people.
Still, it is good to know that this is a social construct and it can be separated from the religion without damaging the religion.
I can understand the idea that we are born into circumstances based on our sanskara, but as I've said before, I cannot accept that this is an excuse to treat people badly or deny them education (or going the other way, to expect more from people who were born Brahmin). It is not our job to judge someone else, it is our job to have compassion. There is no place to say, this person was born untouchable, therefore they must have done something horrible in a past life, therefore they deserve to be treated badly. We do not know what happened in their past life and we don't know for what purpose that person was born into the life they were. The only thing that matters is the present moment, and in this moment we must show kindness to all because they are all our siblings and our parents.