Small things


We drove through the dusty, glittering heat, to the factory today, depositing the owner’s plump, pale wife at a friends’ house on the way.

Where we stopped there was a man ironing clothes in the shade of a tree. It was one of those old, old irons that need to be filled with charcoal. He had very small children playing in the sand around him and tied between two trees was a squiggling, brightly coloured and sequinned sarong. It took me a moment, and then I saw it was a very small baby in there.

On the other side of the road, under another tree, a barber was cutting a young man’s hair. He was showing him the back in the mirror. It was so still and organised. A whole hairdressing salon under a tree. Young men waiting their turn drinking chai on the side, a cow munching it’s way through someone’s discarded breakfast.

Yesterday I saw a man whom I can only imagine had rabies. We was writhing and screaming, lying next to a water butt, one of those long ones for cattle. He had long streams of foam coming out of his mouth and the whole thing was startlingly awful, but no one was looking at him. No one was staring, but me, and the traffic kept roaring past, and the women carried on selling her vegetables from a cloth on the ground nearby. I did not stop. There is nothing that I can do. I know from prvious experience that I would be held responsible, in some way, and then police, bakshish, nightmare times….

A motorbike drew up beside us today at a traffic light. The man wore a crash helmet and his wife, riding side saddle had a new-born child in her arms. She swayed sharply as the bike roared off and I watched my mind spiral in alarm at the sight of the the child so vulnerable. Again, I am just a spectator watching my own reactions to all that I see.

I have been thinking about how much I have seen, learned and changed over the past 16 years of coming to India. It is unquantifiable, but what other experiences could have moved so much out of the way? How else could I have learned the wealth the is humanity that I now begin to understand? I am not sure, but I am so grateful for all that I see and feel here. Please do not, for a moment, think that I consider myself good, whole or finished. It is a dusty and tarnished mirror that I present to the world, constantly aware of my imperfections but longing and striving to be moulded in the fires of experience.

I just wish that sometimes it was easy. I come back to that awful adage “God did not save you from drowning to beat you up on the beach”. I suppose it could be down to perceptions. I want things to be easier, softer, financially fuller, sweeter. But I make all my choices, so why fight the consequences?