|Volume two of my three India journals|
I went to India almost twenty years ago. Last night I sifted through my first impressions of the complicated city. The unfinished buildings. The people washing themselves in the puddles on the street. The muted tones of slums, the bright colors of saris, the wide range of skin color. Streets full of revving engines, honking horns, yelling drivers. The air thick with exhaust and pollution. My wide eyes, open ears, and curious heart took it all in.
I wrote down everything. In the back of each volume is a list of books read while writing it; the pages are full of quotations that mattered from those books. The Solitaire Mystery, Sophie's Choice, Catch-22... My life could be counted and measured in pages read.
Written down with much detail and smile-worthy gusto is my first encounter with my old German beau, a handsome, young medical student whose aunt was a Sister of Charity. Mathias' heart was soft and hard all in the same moment. From my comfortable spot on last night's expensive bed, I could see more clearly how hardened he was to parts of India, but how deeply he cared for the people. The journal is filled with trinkets, postcards, sweet sayings from him.
My time in India meant many things to me. Calcutta was a city where two extremes coexist in a single place. The suffering of the patients at Prem Dan mingled closely with the joy of the Sisters who worked for them. The crazy busy-ness of the roads, full of cars full of successful businessmen happened right next to a family quietly, almost lazily sleeping on the sidewalk a few feet away.
On those pages, through my wordy reflections, I tried to figure myself out and make sense of so many things. I smiled kindly at the glimpses of a different version of myself, and quietly honored those strong threads of self that never changed one bit.
I have changed so much, and haven't changed at all.