In India, You Slip

In another town, another

place, I saw You

unexpectedly; for a time

with a toothless grin, and then

with elegance wrapping You round, You

sat with such poise and then gone – again.

And then Your trace graced my glance

racing to catch You on mother’s

lap in rickshaw.

But no.  No one is fast enough to

snag You, let alone bag You.

In market’s noise, in traffic’s throes, in

India, You slip between like the child

You are, running your father’s errand – You

skirt past me, again and I, I

am caught.

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Coloring Hope

Days are slowly drifting into nights, and nights into days.  Slowly is the operative word here.  Jet lag is a worthy opponent and is only beaten bit by bit.  Mid-day naps are no longer de rigeur, but I write this at night and sleep is far from my mind, which is fixated on color at this moment.

People have been asking me of my impressions of India after our short stay there, and I find myself leading with the word colorful.  Time and time again I would lift my eyes from gray street, or dirty near dead dog splayed across my path and a wash of magenta, crimson, and cobalt laying up against ochre hues would baptize my eyes anew.  Saris would bloom like lotuses in the mud brown streets of Mumbai, and the hawkers’ cries of “Please, sir! Buy, sir!” would fade against this shocking beauty.  The press of body against body as everybody made their way to train became, for a moment a distraction rather than a threat.  Color does that to me.  The color in Kerala in Southern India also took me in.  But my mind, in these southern memories, does not go first to saris even though these too were colorful, but to homes.

We spent a few days in rice patty country at a home stay.  Here we could walk along canals used to irrigate the rice fields.  These canals were fed by a broad river located just outside our converted granary’s window (or would that be ricery?).  We could take walks along these canal systems, where women would be washing clothes on the river rocks, and the children would delight at the opportunity to practice their English.  The poverty in this area was not quite so apparent, although clearly some homes were very basic.  But even the most humble abode was painted in bright colors.  From a distance, houses on canals would sit like birds in a tree, boasting their beauty and bidding us to take notice.  As we took note, my wife, youngest daughter and I all recalled how homes in some of the newer sections in certain cities in Canada are these days colored gray, or pale browns.  A car ride’s view while driving through some subdivisions is rather like the erasure of beauty.  I think also of my first impressions of dress in Toronto, some years back, where black bested every hue.  India seemed little interest in this sort of sophistication.  I had a similar impression of color in Newfoundland some years back.  A guide there told us that fishermen coming from sea would want to be able to make out their house as soon as possible as ocean’s horizon gave way to a glimpse of terra firma.  Perhaps some people are more aware of their need for hope than others.

I remain hopeful that I will again, one day, sleep through the night.  This is a rather modest hope in the face of this worlds’ pressing needs.  But every healthy hope bespeaks the greatest Hope of all, and in this time of the beginning of a new year, I hope for all a blessed year with safe journeys and rich remarkable home comings.

Tomorrow, India

Tomorrow, India.  Today, the plane.

This destination is  farther in mind

than body as this

duty, and that

responsibility

hamper, but cannot finally recall, this fall

into happy circumstance.  And soon I will

be where I am in India – not lost between

duty and destiny

but instead in an

auspicious moment, a place along the

way which is my life.

Not all that I expected,

but more.

Dear Readers, a wedding beckons in Mother India.  Friends of ours who have made us their own have invited us and so we go.  It will be a very different Christmas the year and I may have tales to tell.  My pen will be close at hand, but my computer at home, and so I bid you now a blessed season, and look forward to our interaction in the Newest Year.

Talking up a Storm

We have some dear friends who have a delightful, precocious and beautiful four year old. She has mastered a number of significant skills, not the least of which is fluidity in English and Marathi. She comes by it honestly. Her parents, from India, are exceptionally bright and can converse in a host of languages. They have decided that Marathi is a good meeting language for A and their family and friends from India.

When A talks her beautiful brown eyes bewitch anyone paying attention. Her mom and dad tell us that when she switches into Marathi, she is able to add to her sparkling eyes that graceful, and fetching dance of the head; a kind of swaying back and forth that waltzes with the cadence of the language. Her grandparents – who live in India and visit from time to time – demonstrate the same in their deliciously accented English. But A’s parents never betray this linguistic Bollywood dance in their English, except for the odd occasion in which we see them flipping back and forth from Marathi to English in the company of confreres from their homeland.

A is like her parents. Her English is dance-less. English doesn’t seem to demand the same rhythmic sway that accompanies Marathi, or Hindi, or other languages of the Indian subcontinent. Yet, I suspect English has a host of embodied oddities – some local in character – of which I am unaware because of my proximity to it. Place seems to put its stamp on speech. I remember, for instance, the first time I was in Switzerland and heard the Swiss speaking German. I thought them to be Norwegians speaking German. Both speak in a lilt that echoes the summits and dales of their country side. Could it be that language is shaped by the geography in which it finds itself?

I’m not certain that language always mirrors the contours of its locale. But it does seem that language regularly reminds us that it is thoroughly physical. Here it slowly scans big sky and broad horizon; there it climbs hills and races into valleys. In other locales it crashes against shores’ rocks, while it clips along in short, serious sentences ordered by big city efficiency. I am told that Woodland Cree ripples like the brooks it describes and sings like the birds its names.

It is a delight to see A growing comfortably into two languages. I am quite certain more will come along in due course. And with each language we will see little more of the world in a little one who is talking up a storm as she choreographs consonants and vowels intuitively. What a delight to know that the divine Word sweeps across the world with a range of words reflecting the world’s diversity!