290620131919POSTCARD #12: Delhi Airport Departures: Time to go, I have to finish my coffee… hold cup to lip, tilt head back to drink the last drop, eyes sweep upwards with the movement, and there’s a man standing in the roof structure. He’s cleaning the window glass or doing something. I didn’t notice he was there. Nothing special, it’s just that if we were in Europe, there’d be warning signs, black and yellow tape, fluorescent high-vis vests everywhere, a restricted area below, we apologise for any inconvenience caused, and more staff with their hi-vis vests and hard hats asking the public to keep back. All the necessary precautions to comply with health and safety standards. Over here, the man just climbs up into the roof structure, holding on with his hands, dressed in navy-blue overalls and he does have a hard hat but no more than that. And nobody feels there’s any danger. People are sitting in the coffee shop below and it works okay, relax no problem.

Fine with me too, I like the pragmatic way things are done, intelligent, improvised solutions; repair and maintenance developed to the level of aesthetics, extraordinary to the point of being innovative. It’s a relief to not have the same old limitations imposed on us that we live with in the West: security procedures, systems that back-up systems to protect against liability. What’s left unsaid is that the systems, designed to protect us, create the perceived threat in the mind. Precautions against a hypothetical danger lead to what is thought to be a real danger in present time. A created anxiety, unintended folks, but there you are, we’re really living on the edge here. No need to WORRY… thanks to professional security systems installed at your request, it’s all being taken care of.

Things are not what they seem. The world is an illusion, maya, look in the mirror: consciousness embodied in human form but what I see, more than anything else, is a face, an identity – can this really be me? Wow, a fascination with the concept of self, everybody looking at each other as mirrors of themselves. A lifetime spent chasing elusive sensory yearnings; nothing seen beyond the basic mechanisms of being human. Getting free of it for a moment is enough to understand how it works: mind gets caught up in identifying with the activity. The magician is not tricked by his own magic. Take away all the associated systems, the action is carried out, the maintenance man does his job and what’s so surprising about that?

I take a photo of him just before leaving for the flight departure gate. He has a narrow leather belt, I didn’t notice before, and secures this around his waist and round the roof supports as he climbs up or down to the next section. Then he unclips the belt and works freely. He’s obviously skilled. I can’t imagine there’d be on-the-job training for this kind of profession. More likely it’s an inherited thing; he’s descended from a lineage of South Indian toddy palm climbers, elevated in palm tree branches high above the ground considering questions of a philosophical nature. Time to get on the plane and prepare for the long climb up to 37,000 feet. Strangely comforting to know that when I’m 2700 miles over the horizon, and descending at Bangkok, the maintenance man will still be clambering around in the roof structure at Delhi, simply doing his job.


‘Thus the illusioned soul identifies with the temporary body and everything connected to it, such as race, gender, family, nation, bank balance, and sectarian religion. Under this sense of false-ego (false-identity) the soul aspires to control and enjoy matter. However, in so doing he continuously serves lust, greed, and anger. In frustration he often redoubles his efforts and, compounding mistake upon mistake, only falls deeper into illusion.’ [The Heart of Hinduism, Maya; illusion]

Lower photo from Wikipedia Commons

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