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Thy Breath Be Rude

Sweater wearing goat
William Shakespeare famously told winter, "Thy breath be rude". I imagine an English winter quite horrible to bear, but winter in India is a thing of wonder. It's what we've been waiting for these past 8 months of heat and humidity. Two months of the year when we don't sweat. When we get to wear socks and a jacket. When we don't have to take multiple showers a day.

And when the goats don sweaters. Yes. Goat breath be rude.

This is something that almost all goats do every winter. Sometimes it's a sweater, sometimes a puffy coat. Does the goat protest too much while it's being clothed?

You would think that our Indian friends would relish winter as much as we do, but no. Ask our artisan ladies, and they'll tell you that they much prefer summer. What? I was completely surprised the first time I heard this. How can you not love winter and its sweat relief? They explained that in winter the children get sick more often, and that's a hard thing for families. Medical expenses to bear. It's harder to get the children to bathe in winter, and it takes money to buy wood to heat up water for bathing. Also the days are much shorter, so they can't do as much work as they'd like. They have to use more electricity for the lights because of the early nights, and electricity is flat out expensive for people.

So what I see as a wonderful respite for my personal thermometer, others see as more financial hardship.

This starts me thinking about castes and classes, the division of society on economic or cultural lines. I can't begin to understand these things, but I see it played out in different ways every day. As Americans, this is not something we're attuned to, and so it seems completely foreign to us. But I see oppression, slavery, denigration every day. When social lines are crossed, there's often suspicion and skepticism. Are we really all equal under the sun?

Alfred Doolittle said, "I can't afford your middle-class morality". He's got a point, doesn't he?

The United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." How is that statement going to prevent a girl child from being thrown in the dumpster, because her family can't afford to raise another daughter?

How do we bridge the gaps between peoples, castes, and classes and have a real conversation? The answer is often in the question. Just have a conversation. Let's start talking. Let's get out of our comfort zone. Let's find out what people in lower classes worry about. What are the values that we all share? How are people in forward castes working for the betterment of society? Why is the goat wearing a sweater?? We can't pretend that we're all the same or have the exact same values and resources, but we have much to learn from each other.

Our diversity as the human race is our strength. Let's celebrate that and try to understand the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood better together.

So how did we get from sweater-wearing goats to human rights? Incredible India.

Photo credit: Alicia Hatton

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