Ooty, Tamil Nadu, India

This past weekend I went to Ooty, which is located in the Nilgris Mountains.  It’s a hill station and is much colder compared to where I live in Coimbatore.  People were walking around in beanies and earmuffs, which goes quite nice with their Salwaars and Saris.

The scenery is absolutely breath-taking with rolling hills and mountains filled with lush green pastures of tea leaves, and produce.  This is hands-down my favorite place we have been so far.  If I ever move to India, you will find me in Ooty.

And while I absolutely loved soaking in the landscape and spotting for elephants and drinking oodles and oodles of tea, there were pieces of Ooty that were a challege to process.

One of the first places we visited in the mountains was a place called Freedom Firm and they work with freeing minors who have been sold into the sex trade.  Trafficking is not a new concept to me, but meeting girls who were trafficked was a new experience.  

We also visited two tribes in the remote countryside and learned about their ways of living.  I loved, loved, loved, learning Tamil with the kids and sitting with the Aunties and trying on their cultural garb.  It was yet another reminder that there are multiple ways to live life, and they all possess their own unique beauty.

Another one of our stops was visiting a tea estate.  There is so much labor and intensive work that goes into the process and I was able to talk with some of the workers and learn how to pick tea.  Our drivers called me “village girl” because of how I was picking the tea and carrying the bag of leaves on my head.  It was awesome.

Yet mixed in with each place were statistics and facts and realities that reminded me that though Ooty was beautiful, it wasn’t perfect.  Things like unfair wages and child trafficking and corrupt government issues were still a part of the reality there.  And the Nilgris are HUGE with hundreds of thousands of people reside on the hills, so where does one even begin to engage with these challenges.  How does one begin to reshape and develop a culture while preserving its unique qualities while also making sure that those live there are getting the best opportunities in life?  How does one choose which aspects of culture are worth keeping, and which are in need of reform?  The questions kept growing and growing and with a three-hour car ride ahead, I knew that they would just keep coming.

But as I was thinking about these questions and looking out the window at the insane mountain surrounding me, I suddenly felt very small and very insignificant.  I see all of these issues and see the calendar reminding me I am only here for a few more months and I see my lack of resources and lack of education and knowledge.

And then I read this,

“Try to spend less time thinking about what you see and more time thinking about why you see it that way”   -Paraphrase of Anne Lamott

Thinking of Ooty and my experience there with this mindset would change everything, so I’m trying it.  Though doing this I am finding that I am seeing problems as too big and time as a limitation and myself as unqualified, because I have subconsciously taken God out of the picture.  They all may be realities, but I serve I big God and I believe God is capable of big things. 

I’m sure in a matter of hours I will find myself in this boat again; feeling entirely too small for the problems that I become passionate about.  In that moment I hope that I can remember Ooty and the tea fields and the monkeys and elephants and my new village friends and in that moment will be reminded of the greatness of the God I serve.

Ashley Sider