Harsh reality – sans pity

by Gabriella Sonabend

My friends send me concerned messages from home. They reach out to me with beautiful words of encouragement and as I read them I feel flushed with warmth. I tingle as I realise how much support I am being sent from afar, but something in their words concerns me. They are worried about me, my health, my sanity and perhaps I have given them good reason through my writing – but this was not my intention. I am writing to convey my own truth, to capture and relate the reality of being here, the beauty and the horror, the triumph and the sickness. I am only human, I am only weak and fallible, sometimes I see with eyes wide open and feel I understand the world around me, but for the best part I am utterly confused, I walk around as if in a cloud and all that lies beyond my cloud is misty and vague – I can’t grasp it, I can’t tell what it means, what it says, all is distorted and I struggle to step into clarity.

There is something I am extremely wary of. I have been advised to remember that everything I see is simply what I see. My father told me perhaps my issue is that my expectations of the world and humanity are too high; another friend told me everything is how you think it. Perhaps both of these statements are true and I am in fact suffering from extreme optimism tainted by harsh reality, perhaps if my ‘mentality’ changed I would feel differently – but this is a hard thought for me to swallow. I don’t like the idea that I am seeing struggle and pain because my mind wants me to, and if I desired to see beauty then I would.

The reality is I am seeing beyond the romantic notions of this city and I am not searching for this vision – I have been invited in by those I have met and spent time with in the city, people who were born here, who will live and die here. Yes, of course there are moments of great hope and beauty, but in truth these are extremely hard to come by, the beautiful spirit of the people here does not take away from the fact that they have to live in terrible poverty with no basic human requirements – clean water, medical attentions, a sanitary place to live.

Are my expectations of the world too high? Maybe, but perhaps not, if people across the world have managed to build secure lives (I am talking of basic requirements – I do not begin to delve into the psychological issues we suffer in the developed world), then why shouldn’t I dream this for India? I know that humanity doesn’t have to be this way – I am product of a completely different society, where I have rights and self-determination – so why shouldn’t I despair for the people I see who are trapped by poverty, disease and social inequality?