Anything Can Happen in India # 3

 

 

tim 82

Dear Ezra and Lian,

Every time I think about that photograph, I chuckle. There’s Auntie Beth and our friend Sarah. They have these crazy, forced, embarrassed, awkward smiles. They each have a garland of flowers around their necks. They are being welcomed by the local dignitaries from a small town near Nashik in Maharashtra. You see at that exact moment, there is a huge express train with about 2,000 people on it. They were travelling from Bombay to Calcutta. People are sticking their heads out the doors and windows looking to see why their train hasn’t been moving for the last 20 minutes. They are staring at Beth and Sarah. They are staring at me and Mommy. They are staring at your Grandpa, a bunch of police officers and dignitaries dressed all in white. On the train platform, there is a whole little ceremony taking place.

 

Since your Grandpa was then the Inspector General of Police for the Nasik region which included this town, he and his family had to be properly feted and welcomed. He was there to say goodbye to his recently married daughter and son-in-law. They were travelling to Mizoram. The whole time, the train conductor is pleading with us to get on the train. I am worried that the train will leave without us. Grandpa’s right hand man says a few words in Marathi to get the conductor to hold the train for us. The train doesn’t move and around 2,000 people have to sit and be inconvenienced by this ceremony. The Canadians were dying of embarrassment. That is India. Time is not as important as it is here in Canada. “Important” people have a lot of power and common people make way for them and their kids (that is, us). Ceremony is very important. No one ever stops a ceremony, parade, festival, wedding, funeral or party because it’s too much of an inconvenience, too noisy, too late, too big, or too unsafe. Everyone just steps around it.

There was nothing for me to do, but grin and bear it. I was garlanded. I gave my “Namastes”. I posed for photographs in my sweat-stained white t-shirt and dirty brown khakis. I felt sorry for the people on the train. There was nothing I could do for them, but board as quickly as we could once the ceremony was over. This is India. Anything can happen.

Love,
Dad

 

Anything Can Happen in India

tim34

Dear Ezra and Lian,

I used to take/guide/advise university students going to India and I would warn them; “Anything can happen”. When you spend enough time there, you just come to accept it as normal.

One time your Mom and I were walking down a narrow street filled with pedestrians (Pahar Ganj). Up ahead was a man giving rides on elephants. The mahout and his passenger were slowly guiding the elephant towards the alley. However, it was so full of people, he was not able to continue in that direction.

We soon had caught up to the elephant and its riders. Your mom attempted to pass to the left of the elephant. Right beside her was the wall of a store. At that exact moment, the elephant reversed direction, a “Crazy Ivan”. The distance between the elephant’s bum and the wall was about 4 feet. Your Mom’s head was in between. I was watching the elephant backing up, up, up. “Watch out Par!” It was too late and the elephant had his leg up about to step on Mommy. He was an half an elephant stride from touching the wall, then the elephant started going forward. We just kept on walking the rest of the way to our hotel like nothing had happened.

One second you could be walking along the street and suddenly almost be squished to death against a wall by an elephant. That is India. All my India and Mizoram stories only make sense if you can accept that anything can happen. I really don’t think there’s anything particularly special about me. Yet when I compare my “boring” Canadian life to my India life, it’s like I’m a magnet that attracts lightening in India. I still can’t believe that it’s actually the same guy who’s lived both those lives.

I hope my stories don’t scare you. It’s like getting on a roller coaster. Just hang on for the ride of your life. It will be fun.

Love,

Dad