Ancient Egyptians believed that upon death they would be asked two questions and their answers would determine whether they could continue their journey in the afterlife.  
The first question was, "Did you bring joy?"  
The second was, "Did you find joy?"

Friday, January 21, 2011

Culture Shock~Part Two: Why It's Often Better to Just Sit and Wait.

Three Posts in 12 hours.  There's a whole lot of processing going on.

I couldn't go out today.  I tried.  I headed for the train, hoping to make my way to the Chor Bazaar, which some call the greatest flea market in the world....THE WORLD, think about it.  How could I miss that.  Fridays are the best day, too, because that's apparently when all the Muslim men open their stalls and I guess that makes for even better picking.

But after hemming and hawing and writing all morning, I made a late start of getting ready and by the time I walked outside, the heat and my own nervous energy had grown too great.  No big deal, I thought.  I never go out every day at home, why should I be worried about needing down time here.

Then the realization that I was in full blown Culture Shock started to set in.

I spent the day either in my room or talking with Payel who was meant to go into the hospital this morning for some tests.  When she arrived they told her that she had no bed, she would have to reschedule.

"That's India," she said.

Though she was a bit flippant, I could tell that she was quietly, but obviously, upset.  Usually helpful Rajiv could hardly answer a question.  Concern permeated the house.  There were many people working on her behalf to get her into a bed.  She thought her chances were good since, "well, my husband is a famous human rights advocate".  Through our language differences I think she was basically saying, "wait till the papers get ahold of this."

As the day went on and she waited for the hospital to call, I sifted through my disconcerting array of emotions.  Finally, come dinner time, we both found ourselves in the kitchen having spent our days waiting and wading through some of the harder and more frustrating realities of living in India.  I asked her if she had any news from the hospital.  She had none.  "But," she said, "everyone has something that they are dealing with.  Nobody's life goes smoothly."

I got up the nerve to ask her how she and Rajiv, who volunteer all their free time to help ease other people's suffering, deal with the beggars, do they ever give them anything.  She said, like everyone else I know who's been to Mumbai, "No.  You Can't."  Instead She and Rajiv give to a charity that helps with education for the poor and to another that helps the elderly in Mumbai.  She says it is the government refusing to control the population, like they do in China, that is the problem.  There are just too many people.

In the back courtyard, a group of women had started chanting under a homemade tent.  The songs were sort of familiar, haunting.  I thought they reminded me of the song the children sing at the end of Out of Africa.  While I listened to the women sing, my friend Gary and I started chatting on-line.  He didn't know the full extent of my Culture Shock, but he sensed that I might need something uplifting so he put into process the possibility that I might go tomorrow to an orphanage and read to kids.  Gary and some friends have a charity called that gives books to orphanages, one of which is nearby.

As Gary organized from the other side of the planet, I asked Payel another question, "What might all the chanting in the back yard be about."  She told me it was a pre-wedding celebration where all the women from the community come together to bless the impending union.

While she explained this, the phone rang.  It was the hospital calling to say Payel had a bed and that she must go right away.  It was almost 8 o'clock in the evening.

When I returned to my room it hit me why the chants coming from the back yard were so familiar...they were eerily similar to the chant sung in my dream last week, the dream about weddings.

I was overcome with relief.  I knew then that I was, that I am, exactly where I'm supposed to be.

It's not easy.  My heart and my soul are cracking and shifting and lashing a bit with all the new information that is flooding every one of my senses.  But whatever it is that I am meant to learn from India, I am learning it.

I just have no frame-work yet to make sense of it.

1 comment:

Alyssa said...

As so many have said, trust your heart! And we're all sending you love across the world!