Thursday, November 02, 2006

Closed Doors and Open Windows

I have often wondered about what my greatest fear is. I know what you are all thinking - cockroaches! Lols... and yes, they do freak me out. But I can still muster enough strength to roll up a newspaper or find the nearest broom and give it a good smack. Apologies to those of you who are against roach-killing... I usually like to respect the karmic laws of life and death, but if a roach has enough bad sense (or bad karma!) to cross the path of Kiren the Roach Killer, even divine intervention will be futile!

But seriously, being here has made me realise what I would fear so much that it would render me helpless - poverty. And I don’t mean being poor. I think at some stage or other most of us (with some unfortunate exceptions :p) have been poor (I’m reflecting fondly on the time when I was in London just before I started work at pizza hut and I had 40 quid in my bank account to last me the month! Cereal has never tasted as good since :p)

I’ve always known poverty to be a serious issue in the third world, yet the way that it confronts me in India always makes me uncomfortable. It is in-my-face, so blatant, so absolute, so heart-wrenching. It is so much a fact of life here, it does not hide from me, and even when I try to shut it away by closing the door, the images in my mind keep me awake.

I am not strong enough to stomach the pain of this suffering continent. My neck hurts from looking away, I am running out of rupees to hand out and prayers to say. And what scares me the most is the way in which they have resigned to their fate. The apathy, or perhaps the word is grace, with which they accept what little space the Creator has made for them in this abundant world. That cold, hard look in their eyes that seems to see right through me with such directness that all my superficiality is exposed to find nothing worthy in my core. And life goes on for them as it did yesterday but for me a little bit more has been eaten away in my soul.

And then there is the other side of the coin. The devotion, the reverence for religion and spirituality that I see here I do not see anywhere else. (There are some other parts of the world that also claim this state of affairs but I cannot acknowledge religious fanaticism and the slaughter of creation in the name of God to be worthy of comparison to the practice of simple innocents).

Some call it ritualism, some worship, some piety, some blind faith. It is all those things and none of those things. here is a people, stripped away from the joys this world could potentially bring them, be they running water or fertiliser or rice to eat or a bowl to eat it in or an education for their children or washing liquid or chapals to walk with, and so they surrender to the One that presides over their fate. It is the will of god. Karma. Fate. Destiny. These are words they use to explain why the world has been cruel with them, why the universe is overflowing with riches to fill the pockets of some many times over, and yet others do not even have cloth on their backs, let alone pockets.

And to love and surrender and to accept in the face of all this.

I suppose that is the yin and yang of India. Darkness is not a separate state of being from light; it is merely the absence of light. However, without it we cannot appreciate light. The warmth of a sunrise will have no effect if it is not preceded by hours of darkness. And in the same way, the pains if India go hand in hand with its blessings.

Sometimes I think that India must be full of old souls. To my mind that explains the anguish and hardships they face. Being here is a karma cleansing experience, a journey to clear your debt with the world in preparation to reunite with the One. It is in this lifetime that He hurls every adversity, every ordeal to be surpassed so that your account can be settled.

And this trial is balanced with an avenue where you can seek sanctuary and shelter at His feet. Hence the devotion, the ritualism, the worship, the piety, the blind faith.

'When God closes a door, he always opens a window'.
India seems to be just that, a nation of closed doors and open windows.
With love,
Hari Kiren

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