Posted in anthropology, Food for thought, india

Sea Water, Sweat and Tears

This is a quote from Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts that sat so well with me and I think is really interesting 

Page 373
Sitting on a boulder along the coastline that boarded the slum in Bombay, India. Area known as Colaba Back Bay. Lin, Australian man who lived in the slum sitting with Johnny, a Indian man who also lived in the slum. 

‘It is very beautiful, isn’t it?’ Johnny Cigar asked, sitting beside me and staring out at the dark, impatient restlessness of the waves. 

‘Yeah’ I answered passing him the cigarette. 

‘Our life, it probably began inside of the ocean,’ Johnny said quietly. ‘About four thousand million years before now. Probably near hot places, like volcanoes, under the sea.’ 

I turned to look at him. 

‘And for almost all of that long time, all the living things were water things, living inside the sea. Then, a few hundred million years ago, maybe a little more – just a little while, really, in the big history of the Earth – the living things began to be living on the land, as well.’ 

I was frowning and smiling at the same time, surprised and bewildered. I held my breath, afraid that any sound might interrupt his musing. 

‘But in a way you can say that after leaving the sea, after all those millions of years of living inside the sea, we took the ocean with us. When a women makes a baby, she gives it water, inside her body, to grow in. That water inside her body is almost exactly the same as the water of the sea. It’s salty, by just the same amount. She makes a little ocean, in her body. And not only this. Our blood and our sweating, they are both salty, almost exactly like the water from the sea is salty. We carry oceans inside of us, in our blood and our sweat. And we are crying the oceans, in our tears.’ 

… Despite my intimate knowledge of the slum dwellers, and the debt I owed them – they’d taken me in, and given me all the support and friendship their hearts could hold – I still fell into the bigot’s trap. Johnny shocked me with his knowledge because, somewhere in my deepest appraisal of the slum-dwellers, there was a precipice that they had no right to such knowledge. In my secret heart I’d judged them as ignorant, even though I knew better, simply because they were poor. 

Surprising I took different things out of this idea that is presented, not only the obvious one about how sea water is so natural to us, linking in with Ecofeminism and nature, but the ethnocentric thoughts of the writer. He admits it towards the end, but it is interesting to force us to reflect on our own ideas of people who may be seen as ‘poor’ ‘less desirable’ or anybody who is discriminated against. 

In a mind that is discriminating, it is not felt to be unfair, as ethnocentric thoughts cause one to make reason for the discrimination. For the thoughts that people in slums wouldn’t know anything that you didn’t know. Some how because slum dwellers don’t have money, there is a social construction that they also don’t have anything nice that we possess, including intelligence and insight. 



This blog aims to capture things in my life that I love and have a passion for. These include my travels and travel plans, fabulous reads, general life observations and my continuing insight into anthropological studies.

2 thoughts on “Sea Water, Sweat and Tears

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s