As night falls in the village, darkness spills as if from a bottle of the blackest India ink covering the landscape. There are few lights. The sound of a goat bleating travels like a child’s cry.
Kolkata will always be my first love but it is in the villages of India where something is drawn out of me that seems as ancient as the banyans we pass each day. What this is (that is being drawn out) I am incapable of voicing. It must be felt.
I am like a beggar. In the city, so many beggars sit with hand out, waiting for passers by to respond. Am I any different? I put my heart out to the Universal Holy Energy expecting to be full after the encounter.
Just now, as I write this, two young women have walked in the dark and the mud with their torch lighting the way to bring me a hot cup of chai. The brown sweet liquid is welcome.
Kindness is still a way of life here. It does not need prompting, no committee to decide how it should be meted out. There is no thought that needs to come before kindness. It flows true and sure. (Mother T once said, “I would rather make mistakes in kindness then err in love.” and I will credit His Holiness, the Dalai Lama for surely he must have said this at least once, “Be kind to those who are not because they need it the most!”)
One evening I sit around a table with Osto, Purnima and Krishna. We speak about language. First, the very practical aspect of it. We all take turns asking “how to say” in each other’s language. Then we move on to the very heart of language prompted by Krishna who asks me, “How do you feel being here with us (staying in the village)?” It seems the frogs (who have arrived with the monsoon rains) at once seem to be croaking louder, urging us on in our sharing.
How DO I feel? I have been traveling back and forth to India for 33 years. I keep coming back as one needing to return home. It feels “right,” I tell Krishna, my heart is peaceful, focused. I am able to “see.” Mr. Das tells me I am more myself here. “You look different when you are in the village,” he says, “more relaxed, more sure.”
The world is a bit slower, more sincere in villages where missing is the stepping-on and stepping-up. Osto introduces me to his mother and says that she is uneducated. But I look at her and see wisdom. Please do not think I am simply waxing poetic. There is something so real here that we are in danger of forgetting: recognizing one another for who we are, daring to notice what we would prefer to remain hidden and radically responding to the world around us which is in critical need of kindness.
Back in the city, I sit 8 floors above the din which is Kolkata. I wonder at the chaos which first took me in so long ago! A worker perches on the rooftop across the road (hard hat on, no shoes) and I feel the fear of the height run up my legs. The trees are so heavy with leaf and fruit. Plants rise from the heavy mud. Both seem oblivious to the pollution and the noise. Two parrots fly, rising above it all. Brilliant green wings showing off against the grey sky.
Someone once said that birds do not question why they have wings. When we remember who we are, we do not question why we have hearts and minds.
In the summer in the U.S., KB is fond of bringing me to the best spots in Vermont where at night fireflies abound. Filled with light, they delight us with their awesome lightening show. Fireflies actually have dedicated light organs. I like to think that our hearts and minds, when dedicated, change the world around us for good.