I meet a fascinating human being today and spend hours afterword trying to make sense of his theorems. Ken is from Illinois, white, mid thirties, portly, nerdy, giggly, and he spends over six months each year here in Kolkata. He returns home for a few months and works as an electrician, saves up, then returns here to spend his time in this land which he finds so liberating. When I ask him why he prefers to be away from home he mentions a weak job market and string of corrupt governors of his once proud state. While I see those as valid critiques used for small talk during dinner parties, why, of all the places in the world, would you choose Kolkata after Illinois? He then goes on to delight over the warm spirit of the Indian people as a whole. His example is in seeing an old man fall down on a crowded train platform and spilling a handful of change. The crowd around him all participated in gathering his change and helped him back up. Again, a valid argument but what of the brutal sex-trade, gang rapes, and living conditions of the poor I ask? Can’t be perfect he says. Hhmmm. Riveting dividing line.
Toward the end of our conversation I find out he began coming to India on volunteering missions, then met his current wife in a rural village. He says he has never been treated with such kindness, and pampered so royally, than he has by his bride and her family. I assume that to be the case when a man comes to a poor, remote village in India and finds the fluttering eyelashes of a young woman fawning over him. Is it true love or true survival? How many levels past necessary have I dissected this poor man’s life story? Maybe I should admire the grace with which the people of India manage to navigate amongst a jungle of madness? It is absolutely true that a crowd waiting at a station in New York City would not help a man collect his spilled coins but do you really need to go all the way to India to find a better angle? I honestly don’t know. I am intrigued by the man but feel a painful sympathy for him as well. How naïve does his innocence make him? How malicious is my analysis of his vulnerability?
I guess this is what I have been searching for; this land of vivid extremes. The human race is killing itself but hidden deep within the mire is a tiny sprout of love. Will it be enough? Do I have any hope hidden deep within me?
I am back to ominous. Time drags by unbelievably slow today at Nrmal Hriday. I am not a nurturer. I am a doer. In the soup kitchens of Tel Aviv I felt unbelievably more productive than this painfully monotonous routine in Kolkata. They need infrastructure and education not massages and clean dishes. What good is a band-aid when you’ve severed you arm?
I am giving more thought to traveling around India with the Mexican girls when they leave in a few days. It would be a big commitment on my part but I just don’t see myself staying here. Do I need to fight this urge to run? Should I stick it out? I wish I had some sort of sign but everything inside of me is telling me to run away.
Move into Hotel Galaxy. Conversations are all repetitive and predictable. What was once inspiring has become commonplace. Everyone has had some grand epiphany that propelled them to leave their privileged lives behind and come volunteer in India. Different variations of the same narrative and telling my story makes me cringe now. Hearing myself spew my pithy problems no longer seems appropriate.
Walk to Mother House for a Christmas play meeting. The Muslim quarters are especially active tonight. Slaughtered cows everywhere. Severed cow heads make for a grim tableaux. Flesh and sinew overflowing in large buckets. Prayer chants and smoke saturate the streets. Large crowds. Dogs with open sores. Cows grazing in heaps of garbage. Why cant all these people just calm the fuck down? Everyone is in a state of frenzy. What the hell do I do from here?
I am not in the mood for Christmas, not in the mood for Jesus, and especially not in the mood for choir hymns. All of it reeks of weak minds grasping for a crutch. Then again, what else can help make sense out of all this madness? A friend tries to offer a positive outlook by referencing Lettier from Shantaram and his assessment of India – if it were one billion French people, or any other nationality for that matter, all crammed in a space like India, they would have killed each other long ago. Valid point. Are the Christians preying on the desperation of India by means of charity? A cunning slight of hand; take our philanthropy but with it comes our prophet as well.
Paula says the first train ride will be seventeen hours. Kill me now. I scurry off to a bar to drink and journal. Finally some calm. Dear God help me please.