I Need Jesus
Rereading my journal entries from when I was in India. The common theme: I need Jesus. I kept writing that over and over. The process of getting ready for this trip and then going was a process of admitting, accepting, and repeating the absolute truth of this statement.
My approximate percentage of feeling inadequate in my everyday life is somewhere between 97 and 99.9 percent. I‘m not saying 100 percent to avoid sounding dramatic. And this everyday life I’m referring to includes working a job I earned a 4-year degree in, and taking care of no one but myself as I have no dependents. It seems to me that this should not be too difficult a task. And yet, the percentage still stands.
2 Red Light Districts
On the last day of my trip to Delhi, a small group of us walked through the Red Light District. I had walked through the Red Light Disctrict in Kolkata 2 and half years prior to this and thought it may be similar. On that short walk down a street in Kolkata, we saw many women hanging out on the stoops of buildings. Up those stairs is where they work, but at 10am they hang out outside. Some of them looking accepting of customers. I saw them, and I was beginning to understand their plight, their role, their thought process as they live in a captive position and mindset. I was relatively detached from their position as I prayed for them that morning.
Two and half years later, I felt a strong pull to go to the Red Light District in Delhi. There was another option to shop, which was extremely tempting. Some market shopping wasn’t my first choice either, but it sounded a lot easier on the emotions than walking again among women living as captors. But the pull was strong so, I raised my hand as one that wanted to go to the RLD. In Delhi, this area is close to a train station. This contributes to the high traffic of customers to the area as well as easy mobility for moving girls in and out as they’re trafficked from one area to the next.
Our cab drove us nearly an hour to the train station where we would then walk to the RLD. Arriving at the train station in the heart of Delhi, I got out car sick, struck by masses of people and smells to match. We started walking, quickly discussing how I, the only female in the group of 4, should not walk at the back of the group. As we turn in to the RLD, our leader turned around quick to tell us we were about to go in and that we should just look around, don’t make eye contact, and don’t talk. The least amount of attention drawn to us, the better.
No Eye Contact
Another tangent for some back story… On my trip to Kolkata in 2014, we were advised, as all foreigners are, that it is not culturally acceptable for women to make eye contact with men and vice versa. This was fine, but a hard habit to break! I was born and raised in Iowa, and my Iowa-nice runs deep. When avoiding eye contact in order to not come across as too forward, your go-to is to look at the ground. This is especially easy to turn to when you’re learning to function in a culture with a far more negative view of women than you’re used to.
Whether you realize it at the time or not, you feel that pressure. Like it’s your place to stare at your feet so that you don’t accidentally lock eyes with the men that are looking at you, innocently or very much not innocently, curiously. Then our team had human trafficking orientation where we learned the realities of the system, how society contributes to this industry thriving at the expense of children, and we wept over the statistic that less than 1% of those trafficked are ever found. Then we went to work with women rescued from prostitution, being taught a trade to make a living by companies like Love Kolkata Arts and Freeset.
Then we went to the Bangladesh border and walked past hundreds of trucks, at least one undoubtedly harbored women being trafficked across the border one way or another. And that day we walked past the drivers of those trucks who walked out to the road to lean against the trucks to watch us walk by. And I didn’t stare at my feet that day, because I felt their attitude towards women and I wasn’t going to give a semblance of submission in the face of their oppression. So I watched them as we walked by and I saw them look at the 9 other girls in our group and I wept in anger.
I HATED them. I hated the way they look at us. I hated the way it made me feel. I hated the men of India, not caring that they were raised in an environment hat told them it was okay to use women. I hated them and I was done staring at the ground. I was white and would be going home soon so I started looking as many people as I could dead in the eye with a defiant sneer on my face, just as I looked at those truck drivers that day as I wish I could spit on them for the way they oppressed the women of their country. This was my “screw you” to Indian culture. Subtle, but effective enough to make me feel like I was pushing back again the oppression that often weighed on my heart in those 7 weeks.
This Trip Was Different
On this trip, I didn’t want to say screw you to Indian culture. I had moved past that, I suppose. Which is good, because there was a lot of anger in my heart after that trip. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt the anger I did in that time.
So I looked through people, over their heads (not that hard, Indians are pretty short). Not submissive but not offensive to Indians.