India has a billion people. Stop and think about that. Look at a map of the world, compare the size of India to the rest of the world, to Canada, to the US, to the UK, and now imagine squeezing one fifth of the world's population into that space. It's not easy. One billion people eating and sleeping and shitting and buying and selling and doing all those things that people do everywhere in the world, except here, they never do any of them alone.
On our walk back to the hotel tonight, we passed life being lived all around us, out in the open, shared with anyone who had the courage or desire to watch.
I was asked if I wanted a shave from an enterprising man who'd set up shop against the wall of a house. He had a mirror hanging from a nail, a small wooden shelf leaning up below it, and a battered chair waiting empty beside him. In Kajuraho I had seen the same thing, this time with a tree for a hanging post and the road shoulder providing the necessary empty space. They both had their regulars, the customers who returned day after day to have their early morning stubble removed as they watched the reflection of India commuting to work behind them.
We saw a pair of men pull down their pants and squat to take shits beside the main road leading into Old Delhi. Oblivious of the traffic, the people, the cows, each other, they settled in comfortably and went about their business as normally as you or I tuck a paper under our arms and saunter off to the downstairs shitter. Apart from us, no one noticed a thing.
Entire lives are lived in the spaces that we take for granted - the distance you drive from your house to the grocery store, say, here encompasses whole universes. Peoples' lives consist of the small concrete garage where they eat, sleep and earn their livelihood, wedged in a narrow, dirty alley, where they eat the same food, at the same times, and have the same routine, day after day. Blink, and they don't exist, their existence irrelevant to the India you've discovered.
That thought is a very difficult one for me. Irrelevant people, living irrelevant lives. Millions and millions of people struggling daily to survive until tomorrow, with no thought of different, or better, only the immediacy of selling ten more oranges so they can have enough food to feed their family tonight. They don't mean anything to me. They have no bearing on my life. They are irrelevant. How arrogant, how fortunate, how privileged, and in the end, how true. I can ignore the overfilled spaces and keep walking; blink, and carry on. Those spaces between will disappear as soon as I leave, and return home to the emptiness of the West. If a tree falls in the forest, does anyone hear it? Or better yet, if you watch a tree fall in the forest, then walk away and never return, did it really happen? Or did it matter if it did happen?
I'll take any comments...