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