Watch video of the speech below.
Travelling has always been something that I really enjoy. Exploring different places, seeing different people, experiencing different cultures. You can really see how colorful this world is and how amazing our globe is. I have long yearned to visit India. In fact, the Senior India trip was one of the many factors that led me to choose to attend Oak Grove over other schools. So finally here I am, after almost four years at Oak Grove, reflecting on my India trip experience.
So, the India trip was indeed quite different from any other trip I have been on. Instead of simply touring around and visiting attractions, this trip was a very immersive experience. It shows India in a different perspective from regular tourism, a perspective that is based on human connection, the essence of being a person.
I had a great time talking to students at the three schools that we visited and enjoyed making new friends in a completely different and alien territory. However, the hospitality I experienced and witnessed triggered me to think, to reflect on myself, my country, and my own culture.
Despite my personal interest in India, as a student coming from China, India has a different, or I would say a distorted image pre-installed in my brain, and in most other Chinese’s brains as well. The way the Chinese perceive India is full of prejudices and biases. When I told my friends in China about my plan to go to India, they frequently questioned my decision. They think of India as an inferior country, a place they would never want to visit. And this impression has greatly influenced people’s view of Indian people as a whole. But I don’t believe in accepting what others think. This added my desire to go to India. I wanted to see India with my own eyes, to prove that they were wrong. Like Krishnamurti said, we must look most intimately and discover for ourselves; then it is our own, not somebody else’s, not something that we have been told.
A history teacher at Pathshala reminded me of the very origin of this problem with my culture. There was one day at lunch when he joined my table and started a conversation. As our conversation progressed, he brought up a fact that I have almost forgotten. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the Chinese people stopped calling everyone else “barbarians.” That is less than 200 years ago. And I hate to admit (but sadly it is true) that even now, many people in China still see themselves as superior to other ethnicities. And they have many different and negative biases and prejudices towards different racial groups.
I couldn’t stop thinking and imagining how Indian students would be treated if they had a chance to visit a school in China for a week. Because as I said, I am well aware of how prejudiced Chinese people are. This little mind test always turns out with unfavorable results. And I cringe when I compare it to my experience at the schools.
So, on one bus ride out to Bangalore city, I had a chance to talk to Elsie, a faculty member at The Valley School. I asked her, “How do people in India view Chinese people? What kind of attitude do Indians have towards China?” Her answer was not surprising, but did make me feel bad. She said that Indian people have no hostility against the Chinese people. Though there is political conflict, it has no relevance to what the people think.
She was right. China and India have been neighbors forever. The two civilizations have coexisted for thousands of years. But neighbors don’t like each other all the time. Territorial conflicts have been a huge obstacle that has kept China and India from being better friends. Diplomatic relationships involving Pakistan and the US have simply added more flames to the already fiery relation.
But the two countries, India and China, took very different approaches on this matter. In China, isolationism never disappeared. In addition, the modern day Chinese government has put strict controls on the media, both social and journalistic. A highly censored social media and government-controlled news industry have led to a biased public opinion on many things. Chinese media purposely patronizes India and portrays India as an inferior country. India, on the contrary, according to Elsie, has a much more open media. Though there are conflicts on the government level, there is no propaganda against China, nor is the social media patronizing to China as an inferior power. People can really see a different reality through an open media.
This difference made me realize how important an uncensored media source is. A highly controlled and censored media would only cause misapprehension and manipulate people’s minds. With a worldwide trend of isolationists rising to power again, we must be aware of the possibility of the world moving towards closed and censored media. Even in America, there is a trend towards that. Net neutrality is a perfect indication of possible media censoring. And we need to be aware of it, to stand up to it, and to fight against it.
By the end of the trip, I came to the conclusion that things need to change back home in China. I realized that my perspective of my own country has changed, being outside of it. There are too many misconceptions in China. Krishnamurti once said that we are very defensive, and therefore we are aggressive, when we hold on to a particular belief, dogma, or when we worship our particular nationality. We need to be more receptive towards other cultures.
When we were at Pathshala, we had a few discussion sessions with the local students. In one part, they specifically addressed a few questions to me, about agriculture and rice production in China. In our conversation, I brought up the idea of a joint research force on rice production between China and India. Because, imagine the two countries with the world’s largest populations, making up one third of the world population, both having rice as their main dietary consumption, working together to increase the quality and quantity of rice production. It would be a blessing to our world. So when I brought up this Idea, I saw accord and eagerness in their eyes. That’s when I realized, it’s we Chinese that need to make a change, to open up our minds and to be more receptive to new possibilities.
I feel more than ever that it’s our responsibility, it’s our generation’s responsibility, to bring unity to the world, to become global citizens no matter how messed up our world is today. Sometimes it’s inevitable that we have a few setbacks along the way towards world integration. But it doesn’t matter, because the future is in our hands, and I have confidence that together, we can make the world a better place.