24 August 2009

Delhi again.  But this time is the complete opposite of the last.

The all-night bus ride was a foggy dream from its beginning—Amala gave me only one kata because I’m going to China, not back to America.  I sat next to a French woman, who comes to Dhasa often to help with environmentalism in the Tibetan community.  Someone got sick—the smell unbearable for a while.  The AC was too cold, no windows to open so condensation within the bus left us damp when we awoke from the jolting vehicle, the beeping, the music from shop windows as we passed through towns.  My mind was hazy from lack of sleep.

I am used to a rougher side of India.  So when I got to Kail’s house to see a guard at the gate, peacocks in the garden, and servants shuffling me inside, one could imagine my shock.  It was about 8 am.  I hadn’t really slept.  Was this a dream?

Chetan welcomed me into his home even though my visit was a surprise to him—his wife, Manya, had forgotten to tell him I would be coming.  But all was well.  We ate custard and pomegranate seeds for breakfast, drank fresh squeezed orange juice.  He called the girls to tell them I was on my way.  He called the driver.  I was shuttled from one Seth house to the next, where Lakshmi put me to bed for a couple hours.  When I awoke, Ambika, one of Kail’s three stunning step-sisters, was there to greet me.

Ambika says I am adventurous.  Again I’m not sure whether it is adventure or craziness I seek, but whichever one, it was wonderful to be in good hands.  The Seth family has redeemed India for me. However, I am inclined to ask myself if this redemption is due to indulgence in a security built on a little wealth.  When I told Ambika that I was glad to see a little Indian culture from their eyes (I had really only seen Tibetan), she echoed her step brother’s retort saying, “I’m not sure if we live like real Indians.” In any event, it was enough.  Just to meet them, to dine with them, to listen to their lives and see their homes, to go into the markets and pick out red and gold fabrics together—bartering in broken English and Hindi, to listen to their stories of their brother—a great friend to me, it was all enough.  I have depended on the kindness of strangers, and they could not have been more kind.  Though this brief vacation, transition, journey (whatever you may call it) has been stressful, I have been humbled and realize how truly blessed I am.  I am already fortunate to have such beautiful people in my life, but it is overwhelming to keep adding them to the family.  And that is exactly how I was treated this week, both in Dharamsala and in Delhi, just like one of their own.

I don’t think I will ever be able to fully comprehend India.  Perhaps this is the reason why I am both drawn to it and repulsed by it, a country of contradictions.  The beauty of the people, architecture, textiles, harshly set against a background of unending poverty and filth. Countless authors and historians have tried to make sense of this place.  Their statements have so much truth sometimes, others are just vast generalizations that can barely be applied.  Someone once said that while other countries were going to war to conquer more land and peoples, India was trying to conquer the meaning of the cycle of life and spirituality.  Again, this is both true and false.  India did its fair share of going to war.  But like so many, I will return here, forever drawn to this soil in search of an understanding that extends from human life to human existence to our divine identity.