Shore Temple


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Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Chennai
January 18th 2013
Published: January 27th 2013
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The focus of the day for me was not what we actually did. Yes, we visited the shore temple, a beautiful limestone couple of monoliths, with features that have been pitted and erased of detail by the harsh sea air. Yes, it was beautiful. But for me, the focus was that I had a small existential crisis triggered by an audiobook I listened to on the bus, "Beyond the Beautiful Forevers." It describes the lives of people who live in the slum just outside the Mumbai airport, which was actually "founded" by immigrants from Tamil Nadu, who were construction workers working at the airport. One moment of the book I found particularly painful was the description of a little boy who worked as a trash collector. he'd then separate the recyclables. One day as he put recyclables into the machine, his hand got caught, and cut off. As he stood bleeding, he didn't scream. Instead, he apologized to the recycling plant owner. Apologized! And said, "Sir, I won't complain. You won't have any further trouble from me." WTF is wrong with this world.

Listening to this, and then seeing our American students complaining about the A/C bus and substantial food, while passing and ignoring a slew of beggars, I felt sick to my stomach, and not because of the food. Seeing other Americans is like seeing myself from an outsider's point of view. I feel so powerless to change what exists. I am one person, and right now, I feel like a leaf in a river. This river has been flowing for a long time. Who am I to judge its course, and who am I to try and change it? But this river is a reflection of the social disease in our global culture. Money is power, power is value, the poor are considered worthless, and everyone believes it, even them.

I want to return here in April, after I travel, and make another documentary.

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