When I look at this picture, I feel the duality of our realities. This picture was taken moments before leaving Kalavai. Here I stand with Vijay (left) and Sudyr (right), two of my friends who live in the Irula (translates to ‘untouchable’) colony in Kalavai. As I think through my experience there, this trip was much different than the first. I was able to get closer to the people this time; more relational, more hands-on, more real.
The material and immaterial
Of course, there are stark differences in our lives in comparison to theirs. The duality I feel when looking at this photo is that I spent a week living very closely to their standard. Yet within a few hours, I would get closer to living the way that I do back home in the States. Their reality never changes.
I kept a journal during both of my trips to Kalavai. Earlier this week, after being back in the States for a couple of days, I recorded this entry:
“Just thinking about how different their reality is from ours. In every way material, and many ways immaterial. We’re (my wife and I) talking through scheduling; who is going to take which kid where. I was thinking about the nights when I couldn’t sleep in Kalavai… I would pop in my earbuds and fade away [listening to my iPod]. Such a luxury…”
Of course, this is not a feel guilty message – it’s just an awareness of the differences.
Headed for familiar comforts
A few minutes after this photo was taken we were headed to Chennai and the familiar comforts of a real bed and air conditioning; two things we definitely didn’t have during our week in the Irurla colony near Kalavai. We were completely disconnected from the moving world – no internet, news reports, politics, social media, or car dealership commercials.
As I write this post, I am sitting on my couch sipping a cup of coffee in my living room, which coincidentally is larger than the average house in the Irula colony. Again, cannot feel guilt, just awareness of how blessed we are here at home. Many of the comforts we often take for granted will never be experienced in Kalavai.
Untouchable no more
Being in Kalavai twice in the past two years have offered me a different perspective in several areas; my faith in God, the fortune of my home and family, and the selflessness of giving. I am thankful for my time with the Irula people and the place they now forever hold in my heart.
May they know in their hearts that they are untouchable no more, and that they are loved by many.