Immersion Stories: Anna Tago
Before going to India, I was sure of one thing, that the trip would bring change into my life. Going to a different country, with new people, with changes in my routine, encountering new environments, and embarking on an exploration of culture vastly different to anything I had known previously. In many ways, not knowing exactly what to expect was at once slightly nerve-wracking and exhilarating. On reflection it is clear that the Drishtee Immersion experience did indeed change me. And I am so glad for the opportunity. In essence, my experience in Sonoshi has changed the way I see the world, the way I listen to people, the way I understand differences and the way I think about my own life.
It is possible that my initial apprehension could be identified in one fear; difference. I went to India thinking that irreconcilable difference would get in the way of being able to connect with people in our host village. After an exciting arrival of newness and wonder, in the coming days the wonderful community of Sonoshi slowly unwrapped its layers of tradition, tribal culture, Marathi language; all elements that are supposed to make outsiders like myself and those of a small tribal community nestled in the Western Ghat Mountains fundamentally “different”. Yet, within a matter of days, if not even hours, my new neighbours warmly welcomed me into their lives, as this fear melted away.
As I opened myself to people via participation in the everyday-lives of my hosts, I could increasingly sense that myself as merely one amongst every other person in the world. I realised however divided this world may be, it is actually a very, very small place that we all share. I realised how much closer we all are as human beings, no matter economic wealth, cultural creeds or religion. We are all driven by the same core elements; hope, dreams, love, pain, problems, and desires.
Through a series of interactions with Sulabai’s family, I learnt that a parent’s desires for their children are universal, no matter where we come from. Sulabai, as well as her husband, Maroti, explained their wishes for their grandchildren to find a stable job in the city rather than continue with the farm. Initially, I thought they may think that farming was an inferior job to other jobs. But then I remembered how my mum tells me a very similar thing. Sulabai’s desire for her grandchildren to have more opportunities, to not have to go through the hardships involved in the unpredictability of farming is not about ego. Instead, it captures an immense amount of love for family.
This simple realisation, that we experience the fundamentals of life the same way, brought a sense of liberation. If only I could learn to put aside differences it would help to ease the difficulties I have opening up and connecting with others in day-to-day life back in Sydney. In particular, when at university, for someone like me who has always been described as “a shy person”. Being fearful of difference had convinced me that it was a negative aspect of my personality growing up.
Now I see a new perspective of myself, through understanding others. It is clear that we are all just part of one big thing called humanity; where there is a fundamental familiarity in the unfamiliar. Exposure to an incredibly humble way of life in rural India has made me more self-aware. Most significantly though, it made me more aware of the other billions of people I share this world with, with endless potential for us all to connect, no matter how different we may seem on the surface.
Each and every day in Sonoshi was incredible. Although my childish attempts to stop each day from ending by staying up as late as possible to make the trip last that tiny bit longer did not work, the wonderful people I met, the memories I made and the invaluable things I learnt in Sonoshi will be something I get to cherish forever. It is no exaggeration when I say the experience has given me a renewed enthusiasm for life and excitement for what the world has to offer, in all its ups, its downs and uncertainties.
Anna Tago is currently studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts at University of Sydney.