Last night was New Years.....I want to try and describe the intensity of the celebratory explosions that went on. Every random so often, there would be a tremendous explosion that would make me jump and even -at first- sort of scream. My heart would pound with adrenaline, and then I would realize it was a happy noise. To someone else at least. Towards midnight I was in bed, earplugs in and my head wrapped with towels. The explosions came more and more frequently and actually shook the foundation of the house. Finally about 2 am the noise died down and I drifted into a bad sleep until 4 - got up to meditate - very interesting to enter the state of my own mind, let me tell you! When Eli woke up and we were getting ready to leave for Mother Teresa's orphanage, I realized I was VERY cranky and DID NOT want to go to some stupid orphanage (that's the crankiness speaking, in case you didn't catch the subtlety!)
But off we went, my only negotiating point being that I got to have cinnamon cardamom coffee before leaving. And did.
At the orphanage, we felt - again - like bumbling dumbos at first - what business did we have here? And then, as before, as we stayed present, the situation opened to us.....we were assigned children to wheel around in the sunny courtyard. I had tremendous recoil at first to being approached and hugged and such by children with lots and lots of snot on face and hands....then I remembered what Chris once said to me about how he learned to work hard and be willing to get dirty by telling himself he could always wash up afterwards. It was really an opening of the heart of compassion - showing itself to us as we stayed in the conversation, not bolting. The first child I strolled with and played with seemed almost catatonic at first. But we spent time, I sang chants and mantras to her, I stroked her back and sat and talked at eye level to her - and she started smiling in response - and then laughing. I couldn't quite believe it. when I first saw her, this little one had been rigidly bent in a c-curve in her crib with no signs of life in her eyes.
There was a very intelligent little girl who tried out some English on me - she and I raced matchbox cars that looked like they had been dug up from the bottom of a rust dump. She laughed and laughed at our silly simple game. She was horribly disfigured by what looked to be leprosy.....
Eli and I don't have any illusions about what we're doing - we really do know that the time we spend at the orphanage (we will go again tomorrow) is a sort of gift of grace to us - not the other way around. So we are opening to grace - letting it expand us a little - not a comfortable process.
After the orphanage we wandered around. Had breakfast. We took a rickshaw back to Fort cochin. Riding in a rickshaw or a taxi - or just walking around is hilarious to me. I don't understand how it works out that bicyclists, and pedestrians, and motorcycles and ricksaws and taxis and the occasional bus all manage to flow around and by one another without getting into a huge tangled snarl. If this situation were present in the US any person in her right mind would be terrified out of her head. But here, with no airbag or seat belt, you just sit back and smile and are completely relaxed. I am starting to get the fundamental difference I'm feeling is that in India there is an absence of the cult of fear.....I'll bet not many people have insurance....and I don't think bike helmets exist here. Of course bad accidents must happen - as the do in the US - but here it seems to me that there is not an underlying vibe of fear. I think we've pretty much made a business of it in the west - a big business.
I remember this feeling from my 3 years in Asia and the middle east in my 20's - I just felt so at home in the places that seemed so scary from afar. I had - until arriving in India - assumed that must have been just youth and stupidity on my part - and it was - but it was more than that too. I really know that now.