POSTCARD #129: Delhi: I’ve had this photo in my files for a long time. All kinds of stuff come to mind, studying it, but if you look closely, there’s an orderlieness about it. These people are not fighting with each other to get on the roof of the train. This is Dhaka, Bangladesh, the massive exit from the city for Eid celebrations (end of fasting during the month of Ramadan). At the lower left you can see a hand extended to help someone climb on a window ledge. Others on the lower right are calmly waiting to see what’s going to happen because it looks like they can’t all get on this train. Maybe they’re waiting for the next one to arrive. Another thing that’s obvious for those on the roof is the fearlessness, the strength, the belief in each other, a kinship; the closeness of the group that you find everywhere in Asia, also I’ve noticed it in Thailand. These folk are from the ‘old world’. In the ‘new world’ (the West) the closeness is not so obvious. Could be we have been more war-like, the hunter-gatherers in ancient times, but within each clan there would still have been this unity, this bonding in the face of adversity. I feel it’s possible to recognize something of this affinity with each other.
I’m thinking of what it must be like to be one of these individuals with a place on the roof of the train, doing this trip annually; quite used to the sheer vastness of it all. Perhaps taking some comfort from the fact that there could be hundreds of human beings there at that very moment – also aware that the totality of this annual migration in Bangladesh is in the millions, certainly. Holding on to each other up there on the roof on the rough and bumpy ride. A journey maybe a day and part of a night, for some of them, and jumping off the train in groups, then probably another long journey to get home.
It reminds me of another event long ago, South India maybe 30 years ago. I was stuck in this provincial Bus Stand (bus terminal) because of a mix-up in routing on the way from Pondicherry to Bangalore. So just sitting on the pavement like all the rest do and waiting for my bus to turn up. Terrific noise and people everywhere, food vendors, everything. Other buses careering past and clouds of dust, black exhaust fumes and dangerous speeds – overloaded with people on the roof so much, the vehicle was leaning precariously to one side. It was quite a thing to see.
Then I noticed this boy running to catch his bus, 12 or 13yrs maybe, he looked at me, maybe the first foreigner he’d ever seen. There I was just sitting with everybody else. He hesitated then carried on running with a quick look back at me. Then running flat out to get his bus, speeding away very quickly. There was a moment when it looked like he wasn’t going to make it, then a hand reached out from somebody on the bus and he got pulled near enough to grab the ladder at the back that leads up to the roof. A wild leap and with both feet safely on the bottom rung, and held by others’ arms so both hands were tightly holding on, his head swiveled back, black eyes staring at me. The bus racing further and further away. I held the gaze like that, thinking there’s no way I’d have the strength and endeavor to do that. It seemed like this, held by watching his golden face turned towards me until the bus went out of sight.
“Right now you are Consciousness, appearing as a character in your play. Maybe you think you need confirmation. Forget it. Relax. You already are That.” [Nathan Gill]
Photo Source: Chez Chiara
Reblogged this on Shamanic Paths and commented:
I mourn its loss. Wasn’t even aware of it, all that much, until my time in the Far East. Felt it most strongly in Mumbai. People still don’t understand, and I can’t fully explain, why I was so drawn to Mumbai, and the slums in particular. I think you’ve caught it here beautifully. Thank you. xx
Thanks for the reblog. Some people may be puzzled why I posted this about the Eid festival at the wrong time of year, but it wasn’t particularly the Eid, it was just everything about the experience of India and Bangladesh. There is this closeness, a shared life. As I think you’re saying here, it’s quite a discovery for a Westerner born into a world comprised of the enclosed, sterile ‘personal space’.
That’s it exactly 😀
The drawbridge mentality of owning our own front door has thrown out the best of what family, community and society actually mean. Seems to have taken root so quickly as well – in less than a generation (OK – maybe two) we have gone from 10 in a room and kitchen, to a couple rattling around in a 4 bed semi-detached with only a dog for company when things get tense… And we seem to WANT it…
OK – takes of rose colored glasses – in my commune days, there was the occasional evening when I’d have KILLED for a quiet night of solitude, but the pros generally outweighed the cons when it came to support network, genuine, loving, care, and empathy. (We may have had nothing, but it was enough! 😉 )
I think that’s what touched me so deeply in Mumbai. Most of my colleagues hated it, yet never once were my boundaries crossed…
Hmmm… maybe I need bigger boundaries? 😉
Government systems dispersed the clans, we all became individual units, wage earning/tax paying members of society. And it was achieved in less than two generations; “development” (economic development). A lot could be said about that, ah well… maybe it’s still developing? The cost of living will lead to the clans starting to reform?
In the ‘old world’, and I’m thinking of Thailand, there was a loophole for those who couldn’t live in the community and looking for solitude; the traditional ‘going-forth’ a young man becomes a monk, or woman becomes a nun (all kinds of controversy about that at the moment I don’t want to get into), but there was the opportunity in the old world to drop out and become a spiritual person. I’m inclined to think it may not always have been as pretty and nice as we may think, a young man may have gotten into all kinds of bad stuff (Angulimala) and eventually arrived at the point of ‘going forth’. Everybody was accepted, no boundaries…
I like this post. Esp the part about the boy, but also the support and unity.
Thanks Suzanne, there’s this togetherness about communities in the East; streets always full of people. Indoors is outdoors (partly climate conditions), outside is inside – trust, mutuality, more of a oneness…
Sounds so nice. Thanks for sharing that with me. Where I live I always say, there are the friendliest people here. But not the same as the togetherness there.
I know what you mean. There are always crowds here and although there are social divisions, within these, people live in close contact with each other, go everywhere together, sleep, eat and do most things together. There’s not that sense of an individual ‘self’ we have in the West.
Those moments of fleeting connection are always interesting to me. As if the purest form of recognition is able to arise instantaneously, when the luxury of all the heavy communicating we’re accustomed to cannot be afforded– the delineation of our beginnings and our history and our predilections. When there’s no time for that, something more essential emerges.
I’m thinking also of the elderly or families with small children, and the difficulties such train-top travel must impose. How is that handled? Are seats on the train given over to those who would not fare well on the roof? It is indeed a beautiful photo. Connection abounds…
Thanks Michael, I like this idea of ‘the purest form of recognition is able to arise instantaneously’, and I’m looking for examples of this; inspiration, Zen, awakening… it’s as a result of these instants that there’s an understanding of our beginnings, our history, our choices, etc.
Living here is like looking through a window on to the ‘old world’; nearly everything happens in public. Practically everything is known, is seen, is accepted/not accepted, understood, agreed-upon. There’d be an understanding that the elderly and those with children would travel inside but there’d have to be ‘a transaction’, a negotiation – more than simply buying a ticket. Discussions would take place, recognition and decisions arise instantaneously as you describe. Besides there’s probably only standing room in the train… people have respect, make appropriate allowances. Old folks get to sit, children are held, passed around from person to person, strangers. They’re entertained, given things, enjoyed.
Transactions required to get a place on the roof too, I’d imagine, but many would just get on free. The whole transportation system at festival times like Eid includes this sense of mutuality.
I find this very intriguing. We could learn so much here in the west about working together, compromise, negotiation, and the like. I hope you will write more in detail about this aspect of the culture.
I always enjoy your writing and content.
Peace to you,
Oh, and thanks again for all the likes! : )
Thanks Suzanne, There’s so much of this kind of thing to see, quite different from how it is in the West. I use the terms ‘Old World’ and ‘New World’. I imagine that in some of your ethnic communities from Asia living in US, you’d find the same kind of shared togetherness within their community and extended out to other friends nearby.
There is much to social norms in the East and in Africa that bespeaks the spirit you are writing about. I know it from my Sicilian peasant grandfather with whom I was very close, and have heard much about this from husband who lived in Cairo many years. Different cultures, yes, but related to what you are talking about. I would have trouble with it to be honest. Claustrophobia and Asperger’s syndrome. I wish I were not that way but such is life.
How are you doing with tests and all? Just came out of a week’s retreat with Mooji and have been rising at 3 and 4 AM because broadcast live from Portugal. This is the first comment I have written. Hard to come back to “real life” after 7-8 hours of Satsang each day. So very glad I did it!
Welcome back to “the World”!
Yes different cultures and I know you can see it wouldn’t suit everybody – I’m not totally comfortable with it myself, but after thirty odd years you get to understand how it works. And that’s what a lot of Western folks don’t get (not because of debilatating illnesses), they just never had the opportunity to see it this way. Western people think it’s all about poverty, it’s not; the people here choose to do it that way. It’s about the tradition of sharing and closeness. Something to think about.
I hope you’re feeling clear and at ease
Thanks for your comment, I am ok, and good to have you back…
Thank you for the welcome. Yes, I know of the tradition of sharing and closeness and it is great for you to write about it. I think it an admirable trait.
Glad you seem to be okay. Have heard on the news of the deadly heat wave in India– are you in it? Blogger friend from Nagpur says it is 43C!! Take care, Ellen
Yes a high of 43°C today but the AC has been going with hardly any power cuts. Last year it went up to 46, so not so fierce this year. Anyway I will miss the worst of it because I’m going to UK in about a week’s time.
Yes, I seem to be ok, although there are some differences, I don’t seem to be able to type as well as I did (I was never brilliant) but have to depend on the spellchecker. There’s a funny kind of losing-my-balance thing sometimes, not serious. Altogether, I feel much more positive and accepting. Time now to write more because I don’t have the responsibility of looking after M… a bit sad really. Interesting to be back in the South Asian cultural tradition and thinking of writing more about this using Jiab’s photos from her many trips around the sub-continent. Looking forward to hearing in your posts something of the experience of the retreat. Hope all is well
Glad you will soon be escaping the heat and that the power is pretty good. The news is full of disaster images of India. Glad you seem to be okay although losing balance sounds a bit alarming. Have you told the doctor? Might it be a side effect of the medication? My husband would say I am being worrisome but that symptom might bear checking out with M.D. Yes, it is a little sad missing M but I look forward to more posts with photos by Jiab of the subcontinent and anything you have to say. I intend to write a piece on the retreat as soon as things fall into place a bit. Being up at 3 and 4 every day took its toll though it was beautiful. And I am still adjusting medication. Guardedly think it might be okay now. I keep hearing parts of the retreat in my mind but it has not settled in quite yet. I have to be quiet and marinate in the juices as Mooji always says. Take good care!
Yes, maybe this time next week I’ll be on the way to the top of the world! The changes that have taken place since my small ‘crisis’ could be caused by the medication, right. It’s a case of wait-and-see. I may go see the doc before leaving for UK.
In your case, if you think that adjusting medication means ‘it might be okay now’, then you could just say yes! It is… at least for the time during which you contemplate the mind at that moment. So the experience of that ‘okayness’ is always the same as long as you’re there – you return to it from time to time and it’s unchanging. I’ve heard the phrase used: ‘the original mind’, this could be an aspect of that.
Yes I’ve read in the newspapers that there are these dust storms elsewhere in India that we experienced last year, and we did have a bit of the thatched roof shelter blow away again but fixed now; fortunate for us that it’s nothing as serious as June 7 last year (Storm Archetype), only strong hot winds nothing serious. I see the temp is going down to 39°C Tuesday next week…
That’s worth thinking of, feeling okay and the “original mind.”
You sound a lot better. But I am keeping you on my Reiki list if okay with you. I do it usually around 9-9:30 EDT on Fridays.
Yes, things have started to seem less bleak for me these last couple of days. A lot of time spent watching the space between thoughts and how a whole new thought just enters as if on stage, does a performance and when I ‘know’ it’s there, it begins to vanish and I’m back to the space between thoughts again… same as before.
It was this kind of thing I was thinking in addessing your situation.
9-9:30 EDT means I’ll be awake and about to have breakfast on Saturday in Delhi…
Did you spot the thought “things should be other than bleak”?.
That one can really hurt.
Hmmm… anything to do with the word ‘should’… maybe nowadays I’m able to spot it before it tells me things should be other than they are… still hurts, that’s part of it maybe?
I don’t know if there’s more or less cooperation in the East than in the West. Maybe it’s just different.
It seems to me that while a lot of communal efforts in Asia work because of overlapping networks of obligation and custom they often lack the shared commitment to ‘common good’ seen in similar endeavors in the West. When social relationships break down the whole thing can go bad very quickly, with communal riots being only the most serious manifestation of such failures.
You’ll notice I use the terms ‘old world’ and ‘new world’. The old world, and we can think of historical Egypt. the Incas, others, all have this system: ‘overlapping networks of obligation and custom’. Spirituality plays a part still in today’s ‘old world’. I’m inclined to think (but I could be wrong) there’s still this idea of the shared commitment to the ‘common good’, it was/is just very much smaller; the community, clans, tribes. All that is still present in today’s ‘old world’ countries. And I’ve seen riots here in the last thirty years; there are bad riots and very bad riots. Both in the East and the West.
I s’pose the idea behind the post is that the idea of passive poverty is a Western concept. For most of the population over here there has to be ongoing resourcefuness and endeavour, they’re survivalists. They’re not consumers; wear old shabby clothes because what’s the point in buying something new when what you have is perfectly ok. Kids run around barefoot because of the climate, you just don’t need shoes. They all live together in their extended families because it’s a shared world. There’s no idea of a separate self in the way we have it in the West, creation of the economic development plan. This kind of thing.
So this is just a few ideas about having lived in both cultures, being here as a foreigner (not always easy), I say it nicely because I’m a guest in someone else’s country. It amazes me, another world, harmony and discord; there’s a bit of everything in India as you know…
An amazingly different perspective to something others would generally despise about! Loved reading it! Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for comment Priya, I’m a longterm resident in Asian countries, my wife is Thai, there are very very few Western (white) people I engage with and that’s how it’s been for more than 30 years. So I’m a kind of hybrid maybe 🙂 To me it’s important that folks in the ‘new world’ understand what they call ‘development’ is economic development powered by consumerism. And what they call poverty in the ‘developing’ world (the old world) is not what it seems.
Ah… that’s again a unique way to look at it!
“it’s important that folks in the ‘new world’ understand what they call ‘development’ is economic development powered by consumerism. And what they call poverty in the ‘developing’ world (the old world) is not what it seems.”
It’s true that it’s not as bad in Asia as it’s projected to be.
Delhi, anyway is busy with infrastructural changes at this time. It’ll take maybe ten years. When it’s all done, people in the new world will have something they can recognise in the old world and there’ll be more of an acceptance and opportunity for sharing of experience…
@tiramit Somehow am not getting the ‘reply’ link in your comment. So posting my reply to your comment on June 2nd, here. What is ‘old’, what is ‘new’? That itself is very subjective. For example, long hair in men was in fashion during the days of kings. Then it became old fashioned. Now, it’s ‘in’ fashion again. When we start differentiating anything (I belong to the ‘new’ world, and you to the ‘new’ world, for example), it gives rise to problems invariably, because you start seeing the other person as someone else, and not one amongst ‘your’ gang. And this ‘ where most problems root from.
Hi Priya, yes there is a problem about the reply link, confusing… I find the best way is look at the drop down box on the right side of the screen that shows notifications and there’s a box at the end of your message that says something like “REPLY TO PRIYA G SIRI for example, I’ll try to send a screenshot.
So, what is ‘old’ and ‘new’? I think I mean ‘old’ is something historical. Like in India there are some aspects of the culture that are unchanged for centuries, behaviour, characteristics, that kind of thing. And ‘new’ is like everything in the West. But you are from India so I don’t know if that’s the right answer to your question. Some of my Friends from India were educated in the West and they have a different view of the situation, in fact I’m presently in Glasgow Scotland and went to visit an Indian friend yesterday who has been in the West for about 30 years and we talked about this same question. He feels he’s more Western than Indian – more from the ‘new’ world…
hmm … might be true @tiramit. Am not sure how it feels to be from the ‘new’ world & so cannot comment using my own experience. But, I believe, finally human nature is the same no matter where you are, and which century you are in. History repeats because human behavior is the same. Just that it might be tuned a bit this way or that depending on the external situation at that point in time & place, IMO.
Not sure, really, what you mean in saying ‘human behavior is the same.’ Yes history repeats and perception(?) ‘…might be tuned a bit this way or that depending on…’ because there is this thing called cognition, I’ve noticed in, say, Thailand – the way a person sees the situation may be radically different from your own. It’s got to do with generations of seeing it that way, and maybe I can be a bit more flexible coming from the ‘new world’, you know? And so this is how ‘I’ see it… could be completely wrong or inappropriate or whatever 🙂
hmmmm … okay. Makes sense!
So much of what folk in the West are bombarded with through TV and film promotes and even celebrates individualism. It seems this may be deliberate. And I recall Mrs Thatcher’s rather tetchy declaration, “There is no such thing as community!” as it is were a dirty word.
Oh no, the Thatcher word! It triggers something distinctly uncomfortable in me; lose faith in UK society, it’s like the other way round from what most intelligent folk in the US feel about George W. The way things have developed in the West is all got to do with breaking down the family structure and getting everybody separate employment with separate tax payments. Happily, the so-called developing countries are free of that – the majority are happy with things as they are, in the same way we in the West might say we’re happy with things as they are, grumble, grumble…
Sorry to bring up her name. The only positive I can think of to say about her (part from her demise) is that it gives me a chance to review my ability to practise detachment and compassion. Verdict? A way to go yet, I’m afraid. 🙂