The End

This was to be a storytelling journey: two months in India producing multimedia expositions on small, inspiring non-profit organizations and a stream of blog entries to share the magic of India with our friends and family back home. With us, however, things rarely come off as planned.

The 26 December tsunami gave our time in India a focus quite different from what we had envisioned. But then, the best journeys are all about exploration, improvisation, and surprise.

From the outset, we were determined that our contribution to tsunami relief and reconstruction would focus on the unglamorous, behind-the-scenes work of bringing order to the chaotic free-for-all that characterized the early relief work. We were especially intent on avoiding the temptation to which many well-meaning people fell prey: the voyeurism and vainglory of frontline assistance – what we came to call “disaster tourism” – where the help given by volunteers usually paled in comparison to the supervisory and logistical burden it placed on the NGOs working in the field.

The work we did was difficult, often required long hours, and was frequently frustrating. It was not work that was intrinsically satisfying – like building shelters in devastated villages or finding funding for boats that would allow fishermen to return to the sea. In fact, it was not sexy enough to merit blogspace. But we hope and believe that it will make a significant contribution to the quality of reconstruction and development of the South Indian coastal villages trashed by the tsunami.

My first blog post on this journey was uploaded from the Frankfurt airport; so is this final entry. It is sad and ironic that such a disproportionate amount of writing should emanate from the stultifying blandness of Frankfurt. Yoo-Mi and I had been so keen to capture the vitality and brilliance of India, but simply failed to perform.

We can blame difficulties of internet access. But in truth, there were usually connections to be found.

We can point to our unrelenting work and travel schedule. But there is always time to scratch out a few lines, and finding time is more a matter of priorities than of exigencies. We seemed to find plenty of time to eat good meals, visit with friends, and explore our surroundings.

The one thing we cannot blame is India. There is no lack of wonderfully compelling things to write about. Our journey was filled with glimpses of exhilarating courage in the face of natural disaster, rare windows into the murky skank of Indian governance, colorful street scenes, fascinating conversations, and above all lovely friends. If you can’t find something to write about in the sensory overload and conceptual challenges that constitute India, you shouldn’t be taking up bandwidth in the blogosphere.

In the end, I blame my mother. Not that she did anything. But that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


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