I took this photo yesterday in Cox Town as we were walking over to the United Charities Bazaar (a great and highly recommended event.) It’s a tree that juts out into the road next to a small Hindu temple. When they put in a flyover, they cut away quite a bit of the tree, but the part that remains seems to be thriving.
When one moves to a new country, one experiences a wide variety of cultural insights. All of a sudden, this invisible thing called culture becomes visible. There are, of course, many norms that grate on one’s nerves with respect to the culture one has been transplanted into. In the vast majority of cases, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with the new culture–they are just differences, just shocks to one’s system. There are a few cultural proclivities that one can fairly say are objectively inferior, and it’s a testament to India that they are trying to fix these problems (e.g. by outlawing the caste, by trying to prevent killing off of girl children, etc.)
However, if one is honest with oneself, one also gains insight into one’s native culture, and its particular inferiorities. As I said, we take culture so for granted that we don’t necessarily even see the peculiarities of our own culture. One of the Indian norms that I find most laudable is the preservation of living things to the extent possible. Put alternatively, one of the norms of my own culture that I’ve come to find most dismaying is the belief that anything that causes a person the least inconvenience must die immediately.
I imagine that some Westerners in India find it to be a pain to have to step out into the street when walking down the sidewalk because there are occasionally ten-foot diameter trees hogging the whole sidewalk. In the US, they’d just cut down the big tree and replace it with a dwarf tree of some sort that would never give them a problem–and if it did, just get out the saw.