POSTCARD #214: New Delhi: Light falling almost directly overhead at 12 noon here, also something reflected it seems. Really there are so many surfaces in this densely populated place in the city, half open windows high up and on the same level, all of which contribute to this curious quality of light. And there’s a moment around noon when I leaned out of the back window and clicked these potted palms under a tall tree for shelter in the fierce heat softened slightly by the rain they’ve been having. Don’t ask me how the weather has been, I only got here the other night, and feel like a visitor in my own place, but that’s just how it is for me most of the time; getting used to the feeling I’m not really ‘here’, so often in Thailand taking care of my Thai niece M who is 12. And she didn’t want to let me go away from her on the day I went to the airport because today is a special day, the Facebook mechanism reminds us all saying it’s tiramit’s birthday, wish him happy birthday.
M has a thing about birthdays, I should have rescheduled and stayed, but not possible. A bit sad and slightly affected by the thought of it, but yep folks it’s true, today is my Birthday. All this letting-go we hear about if you’re a Buddhist or whatever but “My” birthday is something I feel I can hold on to. It’s “mine”. The body reminds me, gravity holds me, this is where I was born – not here in North India but here on the planet Earth spinning in its orbit around the sun. It’s the same for all of us this is our home. Also reminding me of my presence here, is the lack of headache, still, fingers-crossed. And that’s a good enough reason to celebrate – wiser from the experience. Next time it comes, I know there’s a way out.
Really, it’s a good place to have a birthday in. This is India, and you can never really feel alone in India. Other people’s lives are intertwined with your own, full body contact with a stranger sometimes in a big crowd. No big surprise, in and out of shopping malls means a full body search by an officer entering completely into your space as if he were a brother.
Another example of this is the return journey to Delhi, economy class, every seat taken and the passengers mostly tall, large men bearded and turbans and women well endowed with folds of clothing, cloth so soft and expensive. But the air is somehow felt to be too near, atmosphere claustrophic, seats too narrow, tight space when the fold-down tables fold down there’s not enough knee space and that pushes them up slightly. The food tray when placed there has to be prevented from sliding off.
Then we somehow get into short-sleeve-shirt skin sharing contact on a narrow arm rest, some friendly shoulder slapping as complete strangers squeeze past me and stewardesses squeeze through with their tessellated silk costumes: so soree sir, ex-scu-me me, pleese… and it’s a homogeneous group, even in its diversity; we share our own personal space with everyone. I soon got to like it, “make me one with everything.” A little humour here and there, including this light Thai cuteness, that is loving and lovable, something that helps us get through our difficult days.