Blessings in Disguise

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As the money left my hand it instantly made me feel better about the day. A little old Indian man was feeding fresh fish to a group of alley cats and crows and I couldn’t resist making a contribution. Maybe the fish wasn’t so fresh… & maybe some of the cats scared me a bit… but at that moment it felt like I had never been touched by anything so deeply. I even found myself saying, “May God bless you” to the man. He was unaffected by how dirty or sickly some of them looked. They were important to him, even in all this.  I had taken a break from “trying” to cross the street in Mumbai without getting killed, and being aggressively harassed to purchase scarves while running errands. This man’s simple act of generosity amongst all the chaos marked me. A break from the ever-present hand of cruelty. Hungry people, hungry animals, and a government and upper class that doesn’t seem to care. The ones we’ve forgotten about. Scavenging children and animals surviving only on what is being given up, or thrown away. Existing to keep the waste, insects and rodents somewhat under control. Little savages stealing food from another mouth in an attempt to survive. No rules, no fear. Nothing. What scene would render you speechless?  There’s a naked man asleep on the sidewalk…Unable to process what you just saw? From the balcony of their high rise luxury homes they can see those that lie on the sidewalk in rows and rows… and rows…

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India is a disease that pulls on your heart strings. This beautiful garbage bin comes at you with full force. Open sewers, animal defecation, lost barefoot children, hellish heat and continuous life changing moments in one fell swoop. Faces you will never forget even if they belonged to people who flashed through your life if only for a fleeting moment. Were we on a healing journey or were we just absorbing more pain? I never felt at home in India. I didn’t want to believe at times that somewhere like this was even part of my world at all. Would I go back for more of it? Yes. In a second.

Deliberately burned women, their confidence destroyed for breaking rules in a place where they still weren’t allowed to. Outstretched empty hands all in line.

Some dirty.

Some missing.

Some injured with raw, bloody, open wounds.

Don’t you love it when the world restores your faith in humanity just when you need it the most? A man from Rajasthan asked us if we could write a letter for him in English to “Celia”, the woman he was madly in love with. He wanted to express in a language he couldn’t write, “How he didn’t want to live without her even for one minute.” He signed it with one thousand kisses, and toothlessly kissed my cheek in thanks. I looked up at B. and giggled happily.

Memory. These lessons I struggle not to forget.

F.

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