“Mine, Mine, Mine”: How I’m Learning To Share In Spite Of My Individualism

Remember the colony of seagulls in Finding Nemo who endlessly chime just one word: “mine, mine, mine, mine…” For many Americans, “mine” is a word we learn as a child and effortlessly carry into our adult years. Indian friends are teaching me by their actions that “mine” isn’t the only option.

Broadly speaking, Eastern culture tends to be more oriented toward community and family. This often clashes with my Western individualism. “You want a sip from my water bottle? Why didn’t you think to bring your own?” In other words… this water is mine! But Indians have a different attitude, “you’re my friend so of course I will share this water with you.” What about the germs, you ask? We don’t want to share those. A simple solution is to hold the bottle just above the mouth so it doesn’t touch the lips.

In India, sharing goes beyond water. I recently visited a local market with some friends and several school kids were in the group. Each young teenager was given 500 rupees to spend. As friends, they promptly pooled their money and a leader emerged as a designated money-keeper (though they all seemed to play a role in managing the funds). Whenever it was time to make an individual purchase, they withdrew the needed cash from the pooled funds. It was fascinating to watch! On this same outing, one of the boys purchased two watches. This boy must really like watches, I thought. The next time I saw him, he and a classmate, who wasn’t present that day at the market, were both wearing one of the watches. He didn’t get two for himself, he got two so he could share with his friend. It’s amazing how with a little humility, a teenager halfway across the world can inspire you to be a better person.

There’s another type of sharing that happens here, an environmentally friendly kind of sharing. I’m talking about ride-sharing. Yes, there’s the ride-sharing that happens on public transport like buses, trains, and the Delhi Metro, but also taxi ride-sharing is built into the Uber and Ola app. For much cheaper than booking a cab for yourself, you can opt to share the ride with someone taking a similar route. As long as you have a bit of extra time, it’s a win!

But the best for last… my favorite kind of sharing in India is when it comes to FOOD! The family style ordering and expectation of sharing means that I’m not limited to trying “my” food only. I can try a bit of everyone’s food. When you’re a self-proclaimed foodie like me, that’s a delightful experience!

Yes, my individualism is still there and will always be a part of me. India, though, is teaching me the value of ours (instead of mine) and interdependence (instead of independence). Come study abroad and I’ll gladly share my water, and more, with you. And if I’m being selfish, please show me this blog as a well-needed reminder to share.