Still Overwhelming


Did you think I would have it all figured out by now? I mean, I did get here Friday, and all.

Well, not yet.

But I am learning again the Indian logic that hamstrings the conclusions we naturally reach. The cacophony of honking, weaving traffic I mentioned in Friday’s post may appear nervous, but drivers seem cool, levelheaded, patient as they shift ever so slightly to the left, dodging your mirror by a hair or veer around the empty auto-rickshaw doing an about face in the middle of a four lane road, each person slowing to find his place in the shifting stream. The motorcycle man with his wife in her sari riding side-saddle on the back checks his speed, unable to make his turn before you cut him off, and smiles as his dark face slides past your driver’s side window. It’s a flexible system requiring daring and equanimity, but these partners are not estranged in India.

Roadsides everywhere are piled high with refuse. Not strewn, as some neglected urban thoroughfares can be in the west, but genuinely mounded with trash. Enter any one of the walled compounds enclosing hotels, businesses, office spaces, apartment buildings, or more expensive neighborhoods, however, and you will find tidy lawns, tiled walkways, tall coconut groves, and no debris. Beauty where it counts — in my yard.

The IDBL school literally stands in a pigsty, but is immaculate inside, a haven for its fifty young pupils. They are children of the slums, their dwellings cobbled together from bits of plastic, corrugated metal, and cardboard, overlaid with ragged tarpaulins and discarded rice sacks. I was told their parents work as beggars, leaving home at daybreak and returning at sunset, leaving the children to fend for themselves.

A metaphor for their messy lives, the school and its staff offer a place of love, personal attention, order, food, clothing, medical care, and — of course —education. And the children bask in the warmth of their oasis.

Now that makes sense.

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