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Posts Tagged ‘rhythmsoflife’

India and Bangladesh, like all countries that live off mass transit, deliver a particularly distilled essence at the focal points of their comings and goings. In India’s case, this is at the train stations, where humanity in all its colors descends into one crossroads. In Bangladesh, where rivers are everywhere, flowing through every town, the passenger launch docks in each city are the inflection points of human life, the arenas where nature’s tendency toward entropy becomes manifest.

Here, on these narrow floating strips, surrounded by the cartoonishly over-sized trappings of maritime equipment, the industrial work of moving human beings meets the frenetic diversity of life in this place. (more…)

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what a catch!


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“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” –Marcel Proust

I have just learned to say, “How are you?” in Bangla, and I practice on a young Muslim woman dressed in black from head to toe. “Balo, balo” she says energetically smiling at me. I sit down next to her on a cement wall along the road. I ask for the name of the very young baby in her arms. “Aki” she says. From other gesturing I gather that the baby is only one month old.

Caleb, Sanjoy and I continue our walk up to the lake, enjoying a pleasant stroll and a beautiful view. On our way back down, I spot the woman still sitting with her baby and hand her a small sprig of marigold flowers that we found along the way. She starts talking to Sanjoy, who translates that she has invited us to lunch at her house. (more…)

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Sikkim is more impacted by a newfound tourism bug, but the land and the lives we see in it are pretty incredible. I love the breeze, the dozens of prayer flags, the hilltop gompas, and the paths that lead off and upwards into unknown hideaways.

Michele and I ended up in Yuksom by accident, a fortuitous shared jeep appeared, so we went wherever it was going. The village is the trailhead for the trek toward Kangchenjunga, so it gets a particular brand of tourists that leave a specific mark. Most notably, children here ask for candy, so I must believe that someone is giving it to them. (more…)

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What a change to enter the Himalayan foothills of North Bengal and Sikkim. In Darjeeling, what refreshment to see women carrying out their daily lives in public, moving and interacting freely. People seem very sincere and forthright here. Unlike elsewhere in India, there are no touts, nobody asking for our money. As a rule, people help us honestly even when blurring the truth could lead to their own profit.

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On our long bus trip to Shillong, Meghalaya, I watched a group of four or five children comfortably squatting around the backside of a goat, curiously studying its butt. The goat had some sort of enormous growth hanging from its belly and it was profusely bleeding from its anus.

What does it mean to watch another’s suffering? What would it mean to look away? “I feel like I don’t have good defenses. I feel really exposed to all these raw impressions.” I wrote in an email to my Mom about this disturbing scene, only one of many, observed for a few moments out of the bus window. (more…)

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We have had our most fruitful interactions on trains. It’s almost as if the camaraderie of sharing the industrial and impersonal quarters of a sleeper car creates enough of a common ground to shift the framework of interaction away from the sort of generic curiosity we meet on the street. I also think it has something to do with inhabiting a space that is mostly middle class, sealed off in a way from the general chaos (of India, and in this case, of the Unreserved cabins).

Looking down on a seat in unreserved.

On one trip, we were asked to define racism (from our Western perspective), before getting into a conversation about a news article in Australia alleging “reverse racism” of Indians against white Australians. On another trip, our new friends talked about work, making a living in the nonprofit sector, travel, music, photography. (more…)

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