Thursday, February 18, 2010
As I walked through the crowds standing around Chai wallahs, and ruthless bargainers crowding evening venders, I pushed my way through the multitude of folk graciously living their every day. I wondered how it would feel when I found my feet planted on firm native soil. Would I miss the chaos I cursed, or would I find boredom in the predictable days ahead of me? Would this be my last chance to experience Life in such chaotic balance?
A begging woman desperately holds out her filthy hands for small change, and a victim of polio peddles with his hands over to the Chai stand, sitting as if his disability doesn’t exist. As he sips his warm, sweet cup of Chai, I begin to question our way. One where society hides “scars”, and embracing diversity is just a cliché. How rarely we follow through. We talk with little action. In India it is lived daily; a strange balance of extremes.
I reflected back on a conversation with a woman from Switzerland. She was no stranger to India, for she has been coming since the early sixties. Still glowingly beautiful at 63 she told tales of the days she traversed the country in search of herself. Young, naïve and beautiful, she ventured alone, and returned time and time again embracing all India had to offer. She spoke of the balance she discovered as we all sat around discussing how although it is so unpredictable, there is a unique beauty and order in the disorder of it all. The talk conjured up a memory she had from the streets in Calcutta.
As she walked through the streets to her hotel, she passed by many beggars, some homeless and making their shelter on the filthy, crowded streets of Calcutta. These humble souls were living, breathing and dying on the streets. She said she walked past a man as he took his last breath, watching the poor man die was all she could do. In a city of 4.5 million what else can one do? As she continued on her way, a block away from where she witnessed the death of a man, she observed the birth of a child. Borne by a young girl only 16, as the new child lay wrapped in his mother’s arm suckling her breast, she soon realized the balance of this country. Maybe it is this balance that allows the majority (politics aside) of its billion or so people to co-exist in relative peace.
It has been a while now since I have returned home. Quickly I adjusted to life in Canada. On a purely physical level I am thoroughly enjoying the comforts of home. Clean bathrooms, hot water, showers, clean sheets, fresh towels, and meals I can count on not to have me dashing for the bathroom for days after. So on a purely physical level my desires are being met. I realized how to distinguish between what I truly needed and what desires I wanted fulfilled early in life. I can live happily off of very little, but now I’m enjoying the physical pleasure of all these “taken for granted” western amenities. As my physical self is basking in five star treatments, I still find I am longing for something else. Something words cannot really describe but rather only a spirit can feel and pine for. Something India gave me daily, even if I didn’t want to always embrace it. Something real, something true, something unrefined. I will never forget the moment I realized this all was about to be a dream unfolding before me in my conscious reality. My fantasies and curiosities about what this land would offer to my life would be met and challenged daily.