Amidst Leopards and Tigers

P4240640 copy

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” – Mahatma Gandhi

If you ever find yourself in India, I would strongly recommend coming out to Nagpur and spending some time here – perhaps use it as home base while visiting the tiger parks. Allegedly, they’ve finally begun construction on what is to become “Asia’s largest zoo” west down Ring Road from my place. The locals are sceptical about this grand vision ever coming to fruition, and at the rate things move around here, so am I. But hey, that’s India. After having lived here for nearly a month now, I can affirm that life here, in its own quirky ways, is grand. Minus the leopard that’s been eating people. But that’s a minor problem. As is the near 50C heat, but I could pass on that one. Hyperthermia, anyone?

One of the challenges of field work is realising that, much like the things you can’t control – large cats with voracious appetites for humans, extreme heat – individuals involved in the implementation arm of your project may repeatedly and unwittingly botch your research ambitions. They are apt to lose sight of programme goals or your project timeline, and you can discover large errors in patient data, programming activities that weren’t performed, etc. You find that your programme’s efforts appear much like that zoo that’s been in the making for nearly the past decade without any significant progress. Despite this and the inevitably persistent feelings of aggravation (though that could well be due to the extreme heat) and impending doom for my data, I know that, given time, it will all work out.

Sustainable, community-based programming isn’t established overnight. Though the programme’s community-level activities began a year ago, it’s important to remember that such activities will always require continual tweaking until you start seeing the desired programme structure and output. I think that many of us researchers have incredibly high expectations of community intervention programming because we visualise things how we would do them – as if we were to clone ourselves several dozen times over and have all of our creepy little Mini-Me’s carry out activities in accordance with our oft-unrealistic expectations and ideals. Unfortunately, we don’t truly realise how un-ideal these situations are until we’re in the midst of them, frustrated, at wit’s end, and desperately attempting to regroup.

P4240657 copy

Also, this is why wherever you go, it is important – no, essential – to have friends, a solid support network beside you. In this world where our international newsfeeds are filled with horrific acts of violence based stemming from intolerance and an inability to cope with the stresses and realities of life, it is often a struggle to remind ourselves of the profound and prevailing good in found in humanity. But the rains always come. Have faith in people, and give them a chance, or you will never know the benefits and joys that come from meaningful relationships with colleagues and close friends. A tree grows leaves anew each year, and each year they inevitably wither and fall to be replaced by new growth, sprouting forth, perennial as the grass. So do people, like the times, shift and continuously change. But the trunk remains steadfast, expanding ever outward and becoming increasingly robust with time, supporting and giving life to the changing leaves. Such are good friends. Like all of us, they change, but fundamentally, they do not waver; they remain true, and you can find them everywhere you go.

P4240669 copy

To my kindred spirits here in India (you know who you are!), thank you for the amazing journey thus far. With each passing day, you remind me to keep faith in myself, my research and most importantly, in humanity. Your positive energy and great faith in me has preserved within me a sense of spirit and optimism in both my work and leisure here in Nagpur. It excites me to think that, as of yet, we are only at the headwaters – I look forward to the countless, amazing experiences that assuredly lie downriver. Let the saga unfold!

Comments are closed.