India: A Moment In Time


INDIAThe sound of monkeys running over the rooftop of my hut. The slap of waves. I open my eyes, and lie for a while unmoving, cocooned in a web of gauzy mosquito netting.

What day is it? I don’t know anymore. It doesn’t matter. There is time. Time before I need to think about how to get to an airport and make my way back home.

But for now, there is no need to do anything.

I lift the netting, bend my upper body, swivel, and put my feet upon the white tiles. Pad in bare feet to the toilet.

I pour a bucket of water over my sticky body. Enjoy the sensation of rubbing myself dry with my stiff, sun-dried towel. Throw on a loose, light dress and step outside.

Cows stand passively in front of my hut. Every morning at dawn, a stick-thin, raison-skinned woman shouts “Ha! Ha!” and drives them down to the sea. She looks more elegant in her old red sari than the Queen of Denmark. Standing there, stick in one hand, other boney hand resting on her hip, draped in yards of folded, tucked fabric as the cows munch on the fallen leaves from the guava tree, and send unripe guavas rolling along the sand with their noses.

I walk along the still cool sand to the restaurant by the sea.

“Masala chai?” the waiter asks, having learned my preferences by now.
I smile and nod.

The scent of cardamom and ginger fill the languid air as the cook grinds the spices into the milky tea. Waves hit the boulder protruding from the sea and send splashes of rainbow spray. I open my book, sip my chai, stretch my legs, and breathe.

How much time has past? I’ve turned pages of my book, finished my tea. Women from the village have walked along the coastline balancing loads of provisions on their heads.

Is it really okay to do nothing, I wonder.

Western philosophy teaches us to be ‘human doings,” rather than human beings. The first thing people from the West always ask upon an introduction is: “So what do you do?”

The sun plays upon the crests of tiny waves. Millions of suns sparkling at once. A sea of suns.

And if someone asks ‘So what do you do?’ What will I tell them? “I watch waves, the way they swoop in with an edging of white lace foam, interweave, glazing the wet sand with a reflection of the sky. Then disappear with a ‘swoosh.’ Yes, that’s what I do. And you?”

The waiter in his Bob Marley t-shirt brings my chickpea, potato, coconut curry and chapatti. I eat with my right hand, Indian style. I’ve taught myself to rip apart a chapatti with one hand, enfold nuggets of spicy chickpea and potato and pop them into my mouth. I take pride in small achievements these days.

Maybe I’ll walk to town today. How long has it been since I’ve checked my email? Maybe I’ll buy some fresh fruit from the fruit stand and stroll through the narrow streets of the holy city.

But that can wait another day.

I order another masala chai. Sip it slowly. Savor the blend of spices. Listen to the ebb and flow of waves, stretch my legs and breathe. Today I will indulge in the magic of the moment. I think of the words of a Mary Oliver poem: I was a bride married to amazement, leave the restaurant, and start my morning stroll along the beach.

About the Author: 11 years ago, stifling sobs, Diane Caldwell boarded a plane to Greece. She hasn’t lived in the US since. She’s ridden a camel called “Bob Marley” across a corner of the Sahara, eaten ant-egg soup with betel-nut-chewing Thai’s, and shouted “Govinda!” with Hindu pilgrims. She currently lives in Istanbul where she dances with gypsies and writes about her adventures. Follow her wanderings.

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