Depth of Field

If I define my neighbor as the one I must go out to look for, on the highways and byways, in the factories and slums, on the farms and in the mines—then my world changes.

—Gustavo Gutiérrez

October. In Yamuna Bazaar.

I wanted to find out about the nature of goodness. What it means. What it changes. What it’s worth. Why it matters. So, with money awarded to a glossy grant proposal, I flew away from those warm-colored autumn Minnesota tree lines toward Delhi. I bruised my arms with immunizations for what I imagined to be exotic diseases. I did a practice walk around the block with a backpack of microphones and cameras and equipment I later realized was frivolous. I convinced my best friend, Susan, to go with me to haul my tripod around, when what I really needed was her presence.

In my mind I projected reels of poignant images of poverty and pathos and India and pain. I imagined the almost mythical ashram and its downtrodden inhabitants. The Mother Teresa–like work performed there—cradling the destitute in welcoming arms. Giving them community, purpose, and space. I had already planned how the story would end. What the tapes would reveal. What the poor would cry out from the depths of their hearts.

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