Ask an Indian in Kolkata “how they’re doing” and I’ll bet you 9 out of 10 times they’ll tell you in English “I’m fine." As much as I’d like to think the Indian people are in fact fine all the time and that they’re a “glass if half full” kind of people, I think the “I’m fine” is more like the Indian version of the “muy bien” a lot of us back home respond with when someone throws at us a “como estas.” It’s really the default response that is more about us trying to get street cred than it is about describing how we really feel. Como Estas? Well...actually I’ve been on the toilet for the last 2 days and I have a horrible headache, but “muy bien!” Como Estas mi amigo? I’m actually extremely tired and my wife just ran off with Esteban to the discotecha, but “muy bien!”
On Wednesday, a homeless man that was transported to Kalighat brought to life for me the parable of the boy on a beach throwing starfish back into the ocean. If you aren’t familiar with this parable, basically it’s a story about a boy who is throwing starfish back into the ocean in an attempt to save their life when he is confronted by a man passing by. The man, realizing there was no chance for the boy to save the thousands of starfish dying on the beach, remarked to him saying along the lines of “child...there’s thousands of starfish and only one of you so what difference can you really make?” While grabbing an individual starfish amongst the thousands and tossing it back in the ocean, the boy responded back, “I just made a difference to that one.” Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve tried to take on the mentality of the boy on the beach, but after having a couple experiences in the last week that made me, like the man in the parable, ask the question “what’s the point,” it was nice to have an experience where we were able to throw a starfish back into the ocean again, even if it was just one out of a thousand. Despite this experience, I still can’t help but find myself frustrated that it’s just the boy on the beach throwing the starfish back and that he’s not accompanied by a bunch of other people who essentially have beachfront property that look out their window every day and see the dying starfish. I’d like to think the parable of the boy on the beach is just the beginning of the story though and not the ending. It can’t end like that can it? Someday...the world joins the boy don’t they?