As a couple our careers take us to different countries and contexts for work and while it is an incredible personal experience it has also affected us as a couple. We evolve differently than we would have if we lived in the same context for several years. I will never know how things would have been if we had always been in the same context. Anyway, after a few years in a context we seek change, this time when we moved from Ahmedabad, India to Kathmandu, Nepal, we chose a context we already knew. After the more or less mono-cultural context of Ahmedabad I really wanted the multi-cultural diversity of a capital without the overwhelming chaos of it. Kathmandu fits the bill just perfectly, it is chaotic without being overwhelming like Indian metros, but it is also in some ways like coming back to an older world. This is the irony of Kathmandu, it is multicultural, diverse, contemporary and dynamic and in nooks and corners it still retains its old world charm. To me it is one of those unique cities in the world that was able to retain this charm.
Since the last 5 months my life has gone through a transformation. I have shifted from a self-employed psychologist to a fancy development worker for a huge international NGO. I am not sure I properly understood what this meant. What I wanted however was to make a difference on a larger scale. As an individual I had the satisfaction of affecting the lives of children and families on an individual level. The greed of wanting to do more, help more families brought me to an organisation where you can affect the lives of more families and have the opportunity to affect systems. Except the challenges were not properly analysed. When you are working as an individual, evolution of practices is fast, it is all about how much you read and connect with the community of self-advocates and professionals internationally and then you work on sharing this change you have made in yourself with the world around you. But when you work with an organisation, you are not an individual, you represent a group and as you work on sharing the evolution of practices with the world, you also do it within the group you represent, so you can have a common vision and while this is more difficult and comes with so many challenges, it is a lesson in the complexity of bringing change. It is a reminder that we are not individuals ever! We are always part of a system and bringing change in systems is tough business.
It requires a different way of looking at things, it requires tolerance and patience for the oppressor in order to patiently bring attention to oppressive systems. I am torn between feeling like wanting to ‘change the world’ and leaving the world for the life of a hermit. Interaction with the world requires you to patiently and consistently bring attention to oppressive and discriminatory systems. It means being exhausted and terribly upset by everyday oppression that is evident but ignored by most around you and exposing yourself consciously more rather than less to this oppression around you. But it is also a reminder that there is so much for you to learn, you are not fully evolved, otherwise as Richard Bach says you would be dead!
“Here is a test to find out if your mission on earth is complete: if you are alive it isn’t”
What better quote to illstrate my turmoil than Paulo Freire from Pedagogy of the Oppressed:
“The radical committed to human liberation, does not become the prisoner of a ‘circle of certainty’ within which reality is also imprisoned. On the contrary, the more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better he or she can better transform it. The individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or to enter into dialogue with them. This person does not consider himself or herself proprietor of history or of all people, or the liberator of the oppressed; but he or she does commit herself or himself within history to fight at their side.”