Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Pursuit of Nothingness

From the beginning of the application process, the staff members of the School for International Training (SIT: the program I'm going to India with), have constantly been suggesting various books to read that will supposedly prepare us for our trip. Although I am by no means ignoring the fact that the SIT has been operating for many years and thus would seem to have the best idea of how to prepare a student to study abroad, I have none the less not been following much of their advice. In actuality, I have tried to stay as far away from books, pictures, websites, and more broadly speaking "things" pertaining to India as possible. However, I have decided to partake in somepre -trip preparation, and to my stomach's delight, it has been through cooking various Indian dishes. Aside from my culinary exploration, I am arguably uninformed about Indian culture.
It may seem somewhat naive, pompous, cocky even cavalier of me to ignore the advice of the professionals who are running this program, but here's how I see it. Every form of media comes with some sort of bias. Even when a person attempts to write, paint, photograph, or compose with a true sense of neutrality, she/he cannot ever escape the inevitable bias of ones own socialization. I don't necessarily find this problematic, but nonetheless it is undoubtedly a fact.
I see this trip to India as a rare opportunity, and I feel extremely fortunate to be given it. I see this trip to India as an opportunity for my entire orientation to the world to change. I will surely enter the country with many preconceived notions, but I want those notions to be as limited as possible. I don't want to go to India, or anywhere for that matter, with a bunch of ideas that I've simply gained through reading someoneelse's perception of the country.
I want to go to India and simply let everything hit me. I don't know how I will feel. I don't know what to expect, and I surely don't think I will be accustomed and instantly acclimated to the cultural differences, but what I do know is that I don't want to know anything. In an idealized world, I would love to go to India knowing nothing more than it's name. I don't want to be filled with preconceived ideas that some author has about India and thus pervert my observation of the country.
If I had the option of pressing some sort of "reset" button in my mind, and thus freeing myself from the ideas and beliefs I've come to call my own, I believe I would be in the best condition to truly immerse myself in another culture. Although it would be entirely impossible to reset my social self, I believe that ideally a neutral mindset would be the best one in which to experience another culture with.
In a more realistic sense, I plan to go to India with an open mind. I'm trying to let go of any and all expectations I have in an attempt to be able to immerse myself in India.

In short I am leaving without expectation in hope that I will be able to learn about the culture from the culture. The opportunity to learn through experience is somewhat rare, and knowing this, I plan to make the most of this chance I have been given.

I want to see India with eyes that are free from expectation. I want to see India as itself.