Blessed Curse: What I see in my world

Here’s a glimpse inside my head.

I walk into a fancy restaurant. I see people dressed very polishedly and I think about classism in our society. I wonder whether these other people in the restaurants ever think about the widening income inequality. Do they think about what they can do for those who are less fortunate? The food was good, but not as tasty as it would have been if I did not have that lingering thought inside my head. I just did not deserve to be there.

There are many street vendors in Bangkok. I buy food from them all the time. Sometimes I wonder if there are days when they do not make enough. Do they have health insurance? They sometimes use really old stoves to cook the food, which are really energy inefficient. Some of them use coal. Some of them use gas—fossil fuel nonetheless. They’re so integral to the Thai livelihood. How can we ever become fossil fuel independent?

I get into a cab. I feel uncomfortable knowing that I probably make more than the driver does. What does he feel about me? Does he think I’m a middle class snob? His earnings are so unpredictable. I won’t be comfortable living like that.

The cleaners at my office never complain. They clean and clean and clean. It’s kind of a terrible job. Do they have other things they want to be doing? Why are we paying them so little when the CEO gets millions? Do they ever think about the meaning of life? If everyone pursues their passions, who will work as cleaners? Shouldn’t we be paying them a lot more for doing something they don’t want to be doing?

These are what I see in the world around me. Sometimes, it really is a curse, because I can’t go by a single day without noticing how much shittier this world is for some fellow beings than for me, which makes the world very shitty by my standards.

People tell me I think too much. I wish I can be one of those people that think too little, but that isn’t going to happen. I’ve been blessed with this curse—one that I think is probably intended to really be a blessing sometime in the future, which makes me always think about equality and justice in our world. I just can’t relax.

How can I get out of this torment?

Or do I really want to?

Buddhism isn’t always an open and loving religion you think it is

Note: This post has been edited to reflect some feedback about terminology from my friends who are much more well-versed in this topic than I am.

Today I bring to you a longer read, but a very thought-provoking one. Buddhism, as seen by the West, is a very accepting religion. However, it is not always the case. The form of Theravadan Buddhism practiced in Thailand, for example, is not the most LGBT-friendly, as presented in the interview below. As a Thai, I’ve always been intrigued–and infuriated–by how Buddhism as an institution (not religion) in Thailand has maintained longstanding discriminatory positions on non-heterosexual people, despite Thailand being considered a very open country. Now, as my friends have rightly cautioned me, I am not here to not generalize about Buddhism as a whole, as there are many schools of Buddhism that have taken disparate stances on the issue. Below is an interview conducted with a Thai Buddhist monk in Thailand who is openly discussing these issues. Of course, he’s in the minority.

Buddhism and Sex: An Interview with Phra Chāi Wō̜rathammō

Original interview by: Kritsada Supawattanakul, Thailand Information Center For Civil Rights and Investigative Journalism (TCIJ)

Original interview date: 3 November 2014

Translated by: Chirapon Wangwongwiroj

Today we talked with Phra Chāi Wō̜rathammō, a Thai Buddhist monk who’s trying to explain gender, sex and relationships through the lens of Buddhism. In addition, we critiqued the nature of Buddhism in Thailand today, marked with refusal to change despite a rapidly evolving society. Buddhist segregationist rules based on sex and gender have excluded many women and non-heterosexual people from the religion. These systems are so deeply institutionalized in the Thai Buddhist society and are very difficult to remove. Phra Chai hopes that one day the higher-ups in the Thai Buddhist institutions will hear his plea and review these misguided and outdated rules.

Gender and sex are traditionally taboo topics for Buddhism. Sexual misconduct or non-heterosexuality are considered a sin or bad karma from past lives that prevent one from reaching the purity of Buddhism. Yet, sexual desire (whether heterosexual or non-heterosexual) is a natural part of human behavior, so in this regard Buddhism and human nature can be considered as a disharmony that is hard to resolve. Many religions around the world seems to be restricted for heterosexual males, and Buddhism is no exception.

TCIJ interviewed Phra Chāi Wō̜rathammō, a Buddhist monk who is actually willing to discuss gender and sex. He started doing so after he realized that the rigid interpretation of the scriptures and the oppression of non-normative gender and sexual roles actually cause suffering to these groups instead of freeing them. This interview delved into this controversial topic and served as an invitation for all Thai Buddhists to pause and ask the question, “What has happened to Buddhism in Thailand?”

Can the problem of sexual discrimination and the obsolete interpretations of the Buddhist scriptures in Thailand be fixed? Phra Chai did not believe so. The most we can do, he said, is to keep talking until we are heard. That is all we can do.

TCIJ: You have been ordained as a Buddhist monk for over 25 years. What did you see or hear that made you decide to start talking openly about gender and sex?

Phra Chai: The turning point is around 1995. I attended a workshop on social issues, including gender and sex. There were both gays and lesbians present at that workshop. On the fourth day, when gender and sex were the topic, the room was filled with uneasiness despite the past three days being filled with joy. It took a while before the mood got better. This moment clicked for me. I was intrigued to learn more about these issues.

That incident clearly showed me that gender and sex are taboo in Thailand. When we don’t discuss them, there is lingering uneasiness and misunderstanding. One day, when some other incidents stir up this issue, there becomes a problem—one that we cannot find the roots.

At that point, I started to research what in particular is causing the suffering. I started by discussing it with my close friends, including Ajarn Chalidaporn, and approaching sexual equality advocacy organizations; there was only a handful of them back then, but I kept on looking and looking until I got to this point. Lately, I’ve been researching the issues of sex in Buddhism, including the views on gays and pandakas. As I continued searching, I also found female discrimination such as forbidding women from getting ordained and unequal roles of bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs. I see this as a longstanding discrimination to the point that it is now hard to realize it.

TCIJ: So what you are trying to do is to apply the Buddhist principles to various issues, particularly sex, and then explain them?

Phra Chai: That is correct, although you have to understand that I am but one voice in a large institution that is Buddhism. It is impossible that everyone will agree with me. I am merely presenting a different viewpoint that is contemporary and easy to understand, unlike the Buddhist statutes that have not been clearly explained, or interpreted too conservatively and not responsive to the needs of modern society.

TCIJ: For virtually every religion, sex is a taboo topic. It’s forbidden. It’s a sin. Am I correct in saying that religions provide very little room for discussions about sex? Why haven’t the religions adapted?

Phra Chai: Let’s explore it from a spiritual angle. When Buddhism states that something is bad karma, it can hurt the gays, lesbians and intersex people that are supposedly recipients of bad karma. We cannot forget this. Even for the heterosexuals, I believe the religious restrictions can make them uneasy. Issues including masturbation, pregnancy, teenage sex, or extramarital pregnancy can be very limiting.

In reality, most people do not stay within the religious boundaries. When religion-induced criticisms spread, people feel bad about themselves. I don’t think religion should go in this direction. Religious teachings should make people feel good about themselves—maybe not to the extent that Buddhism validates sexual relationships. What Buddhism should do is help uplift humanity—and its natural sexual desires—along with the core Buddhist teachings and not make people feel bad.

My observation from the various trainings I have conducted is that most heterosexuals also feel upset and insulted by religion. They just don’t know how to express this hurt and ultimately keep it inside themselves.

This is precisely why I believe it is not only non-heterosexual people that cross the boundaries set by religion; heterosexuals do too. This is one of the key tipping point that should lead us to examine what Buddhism truly intends to say about sexual behavior. Ultimately, you will find that Buddhism is not that concerned with the topic of sex. What Buddhism really cares about is how Buddhists can find enlightenment. In other words, as the Dalai Lama said, Buddhism is concerned with helping people discover the ocean of wisdom within themselves. This is the core of all religions: to find oneself. Similarly, in the case of theistic religions, the goal is to find God within.

TCIJ: The 3rd Precept of Buddhism isn’t necessarily limiting one’s gender or sexual orientation, but rather forbidding sexual misconduct in the form of promiscuity.

Phra Chai: Correct. You can say that the 3rd Precept is an extension of the 2nd Precept—do not steal. The 3rd Precept gets specific by forbidding sexual affairs. This rule is present in every religion, not just Buddhism.

TCIJ: When we laypersons talk about this 3rd Precept, we often say “Do no wrong to others’ wives and daughters.” For the part that says do no wrong to others’ wives, it’s still possible to use your interpretation. However, in the case of the others’ daughters, it becomes less clear since sexual relationships in our modern society do not only happen under the institution of marriage. Today, we have to acknowledge that teenagers or university students have sex, and every one of those sexual partners are someone’s kids. So when the 3rd Precept is addressed in our laypersons’ terms, sex ended up being taboo in Buddhism, i.e. it forbids sex outside marriage. What are your thoughts?

Phra Chai: I didn’t do any homework on this question. (laughs) But I’ve thought about this: How should teenagers view this precept? In a way, our society expects teenagers to not engage in sex, probably because teenagers are still in school and hence unable to take care of themselves. On the other hand, if we want to teach the teens, we have to help them feel and understand that they are still unable to take care of themselves. Every single penny they receive goes towards education. However, if parents decide to let them make their own decisions, there are many factors to be contemplated. For example, what if the girl becomes pregnant? Alternatively, the parents have to make sure both parties use birth control. But what if the condom broke? It’s not easy to figure everything out. There are people who barely make it through this stage. Some girls get pregnant in school. Some girls were dumped when their partners realized they were pregnant.

These troubles are part of why this precept exists: to prevent unfortunate events from happening. So when teenagers spend time together, they ought to learn what consequences their actions would bring. Buddhism has set the boundaries, but we do not deny the individual the choice. However, I also disagree with this precept in a way. When we stress this precept to the teenagers, and someone happens to break it, he or she feels terrible about themselves. In the case of a female student getting an abortion, others may view her as morally reprehensible, but I think about how she will be mentally afterwards and whether she will have the motivation and strength to continue her education.

TCIJ: So if two university students are a couple and they sleep together, are they wrong by virtue of having sex with someone still under the care of his or her parents?

Phra Chai: In a way you can say that. If you examine the 3rd Precept, it forbids sexual relationships with someone under the care of various parties, including parents and bhikkhunīs. Generally speaking, one is not allowed to have sex with someone who is still under the care of other adults. However, the 3rd Precept is not totally binding in this regard; it also mentions the individual’s freedom to consent to sex. So it does not mean that if you are a single 30 years old and have sex, you have disobeyed the 3rd Precept. There is mention of age, but it is unclear. In the past, society does not view youth in the same manner that our society does today. I want to see it like this: If an individual is mature enough to make his or her own decisions, he or she can be considered as no longer under the care of another adult.

TCIJ: Ultimately this 3rd Precept has to be more properly defined to address the needs of modern society.

Phra Chai: Exactly. But the best thing to do is for the members of society to control their sexual behavior. If they can control their desires, it can help alleviate some trouble.

TCIJ: Buddhism in Thailand is viewed as discriminatory. For example, during the ordination ceremony, the monk officiating the ceremony will ask if you are a man.

Phra Chai: This happened because in the past there were no female ordinations—no bhikkhunīs (female monks). The question is asked to separate between male and female, and to clearly identify that the ordinated person is a male. If the person is a female, she was not allowed to be ordained. Afterwards, when there were bhikkhunīs, this question is then interpreted as who can be ordained.

Now, the question “Are you a man?” has multiple interpretations. You can be a man in terms of your physique or sexual attraction. If you take the latter interpretation, then it means that intersex and gay people are not allowed to be ordained. To this point, my take is that there are 77 provinces in Thailand, and each of the officiating monks has his own interpretations. It all depends on the monk’s interpretation of this question. In general, the monks in the outer provinces have allowed intersex and gay people to be ordained, while the monks in the larger temples in Bangkok have not.

TCIJ: Is it necessary to ask this question?

Phra Chai: It is a practice that has been passed on for generations. It’s a Buddhist statute. So I cannot answer whether it is necessary. One possible reason that it is asked is to use it to select people. One important point to note is that Buddhism has become an institution; this is why the selection is taking place. If we look back to the earliest days of Buddhism—back when the Buddhist teachings had not been institutionalized, the Buddha was someone who discovered valuable truths and imparted his wisdom to others. In those days the Buddha allowed a pandaka to be ordained. As it turned out, the pandaka ended up having sex with someone near his temple. This led to the rule forbidding pandakas from getting ordained.

If we dig deeper, the forbidding of pandakas from ordination did not originate from the Buddha, but from the society, the Sangha community and the monks who do not understand. These groups asked the Buddha to create the statute that prevents the ordination of pandakas. In those times, there was a discriminatory attitude towards pandakas already, so all pandakas are subject to this discriminatory statute that originated from one pandaka. So now, pandakas or anyone who is born with intersex traits are forbidden from monkhood.

TCIJ: In this case should we say that Buddhism is democratic? Or simply discriminatory?

Phra Chai: I view it as democratic but inconsiderate of minority interests. Democracy has many forms. One of the forms that we never question much is one where the majority makes a decision without stopping to think about whether the decision can oppress others.

TCIJ: Do you think that questions like this one should be changed today?

Phra Chai: It should. There are many intersex people that miss the opportunity to ordain or need special consideration to be able to ordain. Those that are already ordained should not be forced to leave monkhood, and there should also be ways to make the religion more open to this group of people.

TCIJ: But the Thai society views these people to be degrading to the religion.

Phra Chai: Actually, it’s not just this group of people that is causing others to lose faith in Buddhism. Heterosexual men are partially to blame too. News about Buddhist monks running off to have sex are equally harmful to the religion. We should not generalize. Instead, find fault with the individual. When we criticize sexuality, the only one that is never faulted is heterosexuality even though heterosexual Buddhist monks have wronged the religion as well. Yet we tend to only blame the intersex people and the pandakas, and hence disallowing them from ordination. You can see how it is unfair.

TCIJ: Usually the religious statutes are regarded as one of the holiest religious documents; they’re virtually untouchable. Now you’re talking about changing some of the clauses to be less discriminatory towards non-heterosexual people. How possible is this?

Phra Chai: Yes, it is difficult. We probably cannot do much except to keep talking about it and hope they hear us. We have to keep talking in case one day we cause them to ponder whether these limitations are hurting anybody. We should especially tell the people in influential organizations to realize that Buddhism itself has always tried to break down the caste system and other forms of discrimination and segregation. In fact, Buddhism had some success in the past. Yet, we have been oblivious the discrimination based on gender and sexuality today. I wonder if we will ever have the wisdom to realize that preventing women, intersex people and pandakas from ordination is a form of discrimination, which may even be more severe and worrisome from the caste systems of the past.

TCIJ: Is it stated clearly in Buddhist scriptures that being paṇḍaka, intersex or non-heterosexual is a result of past karma? Or is it subject to interpretation?

Phra Chai: The teachings about karma has to be clarified. When we claim their sexuality is a result of past karma, it’s like we’re judging them. Do you know what they have done in their past lives? Unless you have the ñāṇa (vision) to see the past, teachings about the consequence of karma are passed on from generation to generation. We can talk about it, but we cannot prove it.

As the story goes, Phra Ananda used to disobey the 3rd Precept, causing him to be born as a pandaka in one of his lives. I think this is where people got the belief that being born gay or lesbian is due to bad karma. When people try to analyze the law of karma, they often believe that if the effect is something in a particular category, the karma that caused this must be in the same category as well. For example, if a man is born gay, he must have disobeyed the precept that is about sex, which is the 3rd Precept. Is this sound logic? Teachings about karma can sometimes be harmful; instead of looking forward, people get attached to the past. Ultimately, this type of thinking does not help with one’s spiritual growth. Another case in point is the issue of ordination of women. Buddhism teaches that being born a woman is bad karma because, unlike men, women cannot get ordained. Yet, in actuality, the fact that women cannot get ordained today is because the Supreme Sangha Council does not accept it. This is what should be blamed instead of karma, which led to this notion that being born a woman is due to bad karma.

TCIJ: Have you ever tried to find answers to why Buddhism in Thailand has the tendency to discriminate against these people?

Phra Chai: Part of it is that sex is a very personal matter. Most of the religious texts are based on the Buddha’s search for the truth, conveyed in the form of tales or legends. These texts are by nature very pure in nature, i.e. there is no content about sex. There is nothing in the Buddhist stories that can taint the Buddha’s name or distract from the ultimate goal of enlightenment. Sex, therefore, is viewed as something vile or evil.

Now, what separates homosexuals from heterosexuals is the fact that they like the same sex. Buddhism ends up not only avoiding the topic of sex, it also distances the non-normative gender and sexuality from the religion by virtue of letting the notion that the opposite-sex relationships is the acceptable form of relationships take hold—or by suggesting that people who are attracted to the opposite sex are more likely to understand the Dharma. Buddhism denies any discussions about sex, and those with non-normative behavior are systemically excluded because of this.

TCIJ: If we want to change the view of Thai Buddhists on this, how do we do it?

Phra Chai: It can’t be done. The best we can do is to keep talking about it. Since I’ve started doing this work more than ten years ago, I’ve come to realize that things can’t be changed, but we can still express our opinions so that those who are willing to listen and agree with us will understand the right approach to this matter.

TCIJ: Do you think Buddhism is keeping up with the times?

Phra Chai: If we look at the big picture, I can’t say. There are some schools, such as Phra Paisal’s, that try to apply the core of Buddhism to contemporary issues, but in general Buddhism in Thailand is varied. You can say Buddhism has adapted enough. You can also argue otherwise. I think it is more likely the latter. However, I must admit that Buddhist schools that are focused more on practice than on semantics when compared to the 1950s. You would find that back then, there weren’t that many schools that focus on the practice itself. Today, more people understand the foundations of mindfulness. On the other hand, there’s also an increasing number of the trendy materialistic form of Buddhism, where you paste gold leafs on the Buddha statutes or sacred marker spheres (Luuk Nimit). So, it’s hard to tell whether Buddhism has adapted quickly enough, but I can say for certain that there are many issues whereby it hasn’t done so.

Is there an ideal income inequality?

As a proponent of egalitarianism, I often get worked up by the growing disparity in our world–be it in income, race, gender or otherwise. Let’s talk about income equality today. Movements like Occupy Wall Street (remember “We are the 99%?”) represent the majority’s discontent with inequality. It’s not about any kind of inequality though. It’s about systemic and deeply-rooted societal mechanisms that help the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Here’s a thought from my shower: Is there such a thing as an ideal level of inequality? Total absolute equality is realistically impossible, since that would entail, among many other things, everyone (and I mean everyone–like the CEO and the janitor) getting paid equally. I don’t see this happening anytime soon. Besides, total income equality may be kinda boring, isn’t it? Considering that social mobility and money are prime motivators for most workers, absolute equality may turn out to be harmful.

It turns out that I’m far from being the first person to think about this. There is a question posted on Quora entitled What is the ideal gini coefficient if the end goal is a prosperous and thriving society? Gini coefficient is the most common form of measuring income equality in a given country, with 1 representing a single person controlling all the wealth and 0 representing absolute equality.

I found a neat chart from Geo-Mexico.com that shows the Gini coefficients for various OECD countries:

gini-coefficient-change-oecd

Anyway, the Quora question received a brilliant and thoughtful response from a guy named Jacob Jensen. You should check out his full answer, but here’s his first and then the last two paragraphs:

There is no ideal per se. 25, which is roughly Scandinavian countries after redistributive effects of their govt taxing/spending, could suck if it’s because your country just underwent a revolution and all people at the upper end either had their property appropriated or emigrated (or both).

<truncated middle paragraphs>

What all this seems to say to me is that a Gini in mid 30’s to 50’s is compatible with high growth in a developing nation, and therefore generally acceptable, while a gini in the 20’s to low 40’s is typical of developed nations correlating pretty strongly with government efforts to create a safety net. Accidents of history play a role in determining these ranges – perhaps, for instance, Brazil or South Africa will hit 30K GDP per capita with gini’s above 50 (though I doubt it), or perhaps we’lll see a developing nation that pulls of a miracle and sees high growth with a low-30’s GDP, or a developed nation that really commits to laissez faire and edges into the 50s or higher.

On the other hand, misery, instability and stagnation are compatible with any gini as Ukraine (28), Egypt (32), Chad (40), Bulgaria (46), Zimbabwe (50, yes even with Mugabe), and Haiti (60)

At the end, it seems to me like this is a question with no right answer. Ultimately, your notion of an ideal Gini coefficient is informed largely based on your values. For me, a country that I can be proud of is one that doesn’t have its citizens featured in Forbes’ richest people in the world list. I’ll take .25 over .50 any day. Heck, if getting to .15 is possible thenI’ll take this too, but only if equality doesn’t come at the expense of freedom and well-being.

I remain optimistic in observing what the Scandinavian countries will continue to achieve in this regard.

0298 – The art of bargaining, and the opening of eyes

So… I’m kinda broke right now. I’ve been spending so much money on all my past and planned travels over the weekends that I’m now out of money. O.o Waiting for my next paycheck to come out in a few days. It’s a strange feeling, this living paycheck to paycheck thing. It’s a rather new sensation for me–fortunately. It’s kind of stressful but also refreshing in a way; to be able to really experience the harsh reality of money’s role in our society. This year’s been rather woeful financially. Lots of unexpected expenses, not that much income. But those unforeseen transactions are bringing me to India, then Bhutan, and then Liberia, so I’d say it’s probably worth it (or so I hope). Nevertheless, it’s really never healthy to have to think about money all the time, so my heart goes out to all the honest souls out there trying to make ends meet. I’m starting to realize that my impending adulthood really won’t be easy.

India also makes me think about inequality. It’s pretty apparent. There’re people struggling every day, and there’re also people who make more than enough. A new state-of-the-art building can be located right next to a run-down settlement.

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Some of them really know how to bargain. Here’s my recollection of an encounter with a beggar in Mumbai:

Beggar approaches the taxi stuck in traffic.

Him: “10 rupees sir.”

Silence.

“20 rupees.”

Silence. I was confused.

“50 rupees, 50 rupees.”

We started to chuckle.

My friend said, “You’re not very good at this, are you?”

At this point, the taxi driver was laughing as well.

He continued.

“100 rupees!”

“1000 rupees!!”

He didn’t get anything from us.

This story, while amusing, also serves as a point of reflection. Beggars are everywhere in India. It’s not that I don’t give, but from what I know about philanthropy and donations, it is much better to give strategically, i.e. give to those who’re working for their living, or give to institutions that enable a change in their livelihood. But it also makes me think about this: how much money do we need to live? How about to be happy?

Daniel Kahneman’s research suggests that beyond a certain income, where we have enough to meet the necessities and simple needs, more money doesn’t really bring happiness (I really simplified that. Full article here.) Anyway, in practical terms, what does this mean? I’ve talked to friends and strangers who say that many people in countries like Laos, Cambodia, and India are happy, because they haven’t seen much of the world and don’t have many different lifestyles to contrast with their own.

Some Indian residents sleeping on the roof of a building outside my friend’s room. (c) Ana Carolina Leal Talarico 2012

My cab driver was happy. I asked him if he’d ever leave Bangalore, and he said no. But he’s happy here. He’s okay with it. He’s working earnestly–and with a smile–to make a living. It’s very respectable. Interesting to think about.

I wonder… is it because as I see more of the world, I see more choices and more variety, and so I become more… picky and persistent about the way I’d like to live? I’m now used to comfort offered in Westernized societies, but I could live without them, especially if I don’t know about them. So then, the question, in my opinion, becomes: What should I do with the life and experiences that have been bestowed upon me? My eyes have certainly been opening a little wider as I see a new place. We’ll see where I go with all this, but in the end, I just wanna find where I belong.

“You sometimes think you want to disappear but all you really want is to be found.” Anonymous

0293 – Should East really meet West?

Being in India, coupled with my friend holding the book Fury by the Indian author Salman Rushdie, I thought about the book East, West (by Rushdie) that I read in high school–and never really understood. In fact, back then I never really understood literature. It’s not until I grew up a little bit that I started to grasp the beauty of words and culture.

Being from Thailand and having experienced Singapore (a prime East meets West) and the US of A, I think about the East-West dichotomy a fair amount. As globalization continues, it seems as if the Western way of life has infiltrated the world.

Today I went to explore the city of Bangalore for the first time. Here’s the few pictures that I took:

It doesn’t tell much, but there weren’t really much to tell. It’s another city, heavily influenced by the influx of technology and Western culture, establishing itself as a popular spot for Westerners in India.

And somehow, this doesn’t seem okay. I didn’t know what I expected coming in, but this just doesn’t feel right. The sights and sounds provoked a profound sorrow within me, sending me into another abyss of existential frustrations.

The East, culturally speaking, seems to be disappearing.

I wanted to see traditional buildings. I wanted to see simplicity. I wanted to see peace. And truthfully, I wanted to see a little less technology. Instead, I was greeted by constant honking (which–in my current state of mind–I have allowed to annoy the * out of me), shops like Lee, Levi’s, Bossini, Sony, and many more.

I feel a little selfish for not wanting the Western influences for anybody, especially since I myself has acclimated and fully embraced the Western lifestyle. I even feel nervous and dread when I know that I have to go to an unfamiliar place. I guess I’ve always thought of India as a country so rich with culture and beauty, and I wanted to see that. Yet, I also know that the social inequality is increasingly apparent in the country. And this is not what I came to see. I want to see the disparity. I want to see the slums. I want to see the different lifestyle, not the similar one. I’ll definitely get to see different angles as I visit different parts of India, but it’s still sad to feel that the local context here has been kicked away by things we’re too familiar with.

There’s a lot of ‘I’s in those two paragraphs. That’s a sign that my ego is flaring. You know… I really haven’t been very happy of late. Even as I spend time to advocate for happiness, I’m not happy. It’s probably time that I address it here on this blog – next post!