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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Torn to Pieces

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The desert. Rajasthan, India.

A woman stumbles onto the scene. She hastily moves around in circles, desperate to find her way. She stops and addresses the audience.

The sound of brutally vicious growls, snarls, and barks entangle me. Survival. How am I going to make it out of this one alive? Thinking I was a threat, they are threatening me in return. Overwhelming thought of the moment, “Holy fuck, WHERE AM I!?”

Her eyes already laced with the first tinge of a lack of confidence, peak out from behind a colorful, embroidered headscarf.

Sunscreen isn’t quite enough to tame this ferocious side of the blazing hot sun. I took a wrong turn and now I’m lost and alone, on some all too quiet dirt road. All too quiet…Fuck. I hate anyone who has ever shared a gruesome story about rape or murder. Why are my nerves so rattled? I’ve been lost and found my way many times before, I can do it again! Their sounds rapidly erase my renewed confidence.

Boom. Boom. Boom. My heart pounds in my throat, manifesting itself into a lump of terror that keeps growing and growing. I can’t swallow or breathe properly, I have lost total control. My body paralysed by fear has a mind of its own, weak and shaken I fight to keep moving with my surroundings spinning an unsettling tornado all around.

“Legs please don’t fail me now!” This empty, dusty dirt road, how quickly can my feet get me away from it? How many of them are there and what will they do to me?

I close my eyes. Sweat droplets and tears mingle and dance all over my face. I see their sharp, pointy teeth and feel their angry breath biting and tearing. Torn. I’m torn to pieces and there’s nothing left. My fear filling their veins like a drug, enticing them, drawing them in, riling them up and making them angrier and more deadly. With each inconspicuous step I try to take, in a feeble attempt to escape them, they inch closer and closer. Their barks signal others to join their pack of hate and my time is running out. If only I could cover myself completely with this headscarf and just disappear.

The woman desperately tries to hide behind the headscarf.

Bang. Bang. Bang. In a flash it’s all over, as a beat up truck pulls up right in the nick of time. Instantly aware of my dilemma the driver had begun to hit his car door in an attempt to frighten the dogs. Without blinking an eye, I jump in the front seat next to him and begin to sob. I can still hear the dogs barking in the distance…as we drive off. Far, far away from this empty, dusty dirt road.

F.

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