The Power of Coexistence and Place

By: Mary Esten Brown

I missed this incredibly diverse place beyond words. The second I stepped off the plane and back into the city, my heart was filled. In comparison to last year, this trip is very different. I value the diversity of activities between trips – each year we have a different outcome and each year just going with the flow. It has given me the opportunity to see parts of Delhi I hadn’t last year. Being in the group focusing on the environment, I am constantly thinking about what an environment is and what makes it unique. I’ve discovered the value of place throughout the years – attending Christchurch has taught me so much about place, and moving around rather frequently with my family has given me the exposure to many different places and experiences especially in terms of culture, religion, opinions, etc.

One of the most incredible aspects of Delhi that makes it so complex is how many different layers and environments coexist. You can go from walking through what seems like a never ending concrete jungle to a beautiful lush park like the Lodhi Gardens or Connaught Place, each influenced by their surroundings. The people who inhabit the environments are the constant between them. You can see it is their place. They are knowledgeable in survival, and how to make the world work for their given circumstances. That is something I admire about the people of India, their resilience and determination for everything they do. Specifically within Delhi, you are surrounded by vendors and shop owners. You are approached by men and women on the street, determined to convince you to buy their product. To some, this may seem annoying, or as if they’re asking for charity; but to me, I see this as persistent effort from people reliant on an informal economy that fails in recognizing the extent to which they rely on those people. They are just like us, working to provide for themselves. They are so proud to be from where they are, to live in the environment they live in. Having experienced Agora last year, I appreciate this work ethic because I’ve seen it first hand among the families farming and providing for themselves. Discovering this, being able to identify with a place, is so important in shaping your outlook on life outside of your specific culture.   

Something I noticed and something I found extremely inspiring about this specific group of travelers from CCS, is how genuinely happy everyone was when we were all together – dancing, laughing, singing, occasionally attempting handstands with an Indian breakdancer (not always successfully). It’s these experiences, these little moments, that make a place what it is and that make an environment what it is. Yes, environments are constantly changing and people are constantly adapting, but there will always be some original aspect of that environment that brought that person there in the first place. I encourage you to discover what makes your environment specific to you, and why it is you connect with it. What does it give you, what does it teach you? Be open to interpretation, be open to change. Learn the value of your place and how it has shaped you into who you are today. Nothing is stronger than the determination to learn! Now go out and experience your surroundings! 

8 thoughts on “The Power of Coexistence and Place

  1. Mary Esten – Suburb, absolutely suburb! You are a gifted writer and a true leader, challenging all to explore their environment. I’m blown away!

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  2. I like how you wrote how “different layers and environments coexist” in the city. Like an ecosystem with insects, birds, and people, the different populations are dependent on one another.

    There must be cell phones everywhere, alongside the primitive cooking and people asking for money.

    If you take photos of people, please take photos of women as well as men.

    Have you seen any folk dancing?

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  3. Love the photos. MEBS looks very happy to be there. Spoken like a true child of CCS! Place, people, connections; humanity, emotions, impacts. Always learning. Resilience. Persistence. Great message and examples shining through in this strong piece!

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  4. You are an impressive writer with the ability to communicate wisdom beyond your years. I very much enjoyed reading your post. Thank you for sharing your insight and skill in using language to communicate lived experience with us all. I look forward to reading more of your submissions (on this blog or elsewhere), and I hope you are keeping a journal!

    Also, I echo the comments of others, you are radiant and it is obvious that India is a place where your soul sparks.

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