Unpacking India and feeding the hungry

Bike and Rickshaw in Udaipur

Home for almost a full seven days.  This is the most amount of time I've spent at my home consecutively since the middle of august.  I'm starting to feel grounded and settled even if I'm not caught up on the never ending e-mails.  I feel relieved to know that I'm not setting foot on another airplane for at least a month.  

Within the space that an unscheduled Saturday provides it dawned on me that I'm still unpacking experiences from India like a suitcase left open, full and disheveled on my bedroom floor.  The trip over but memories like clothing half in, half out of the bag.  I'm not sure what pieces are clean and which are dirty needing to be washed, so much left unexamined and in need of being put away.  I'm becoming acutely aware that I haven't processed India.  I didn't give that trip enough time or thought when I got back.  I was home for less than 5 days struggling to fit in meetings with clients and stolen moments with friends while grappling with reverse culture shock before setting off again for a luxurious yoga retreat in Greece.  It was as if I had taken the feelings I was experiencing for India, held them in my hand for a brief moment and then placed them in the back pocket of my jeans, out of sight, out of mind. Possibly the only way I could deal with the incongruent indulgence of Greece immediately following the contradictions of India.  

Now with space to think my mind keeps returning to my last day in Mumbai.  Ann and I riding in a rickshaw to a cafe in West Bandra.  The streets were less crowded than they'd been because it was a holiday that gave us a feeling of Saturday.  The sun shone down brilliantly, for the first time i felt a pang of wanting one more week in India even though I desperately wanted to be home.  Sitting in that Rickshaw with my sister I felt rested and a bit more comfortable with India.  I had the sense that if I had one more week I could maybe muster the courage to wander the streets alone during the day for a few hours taking pictures or writing in a cafe.  Then it happened, 

Cows in Udaipur

our rickshaw stopped at a red light, a man who's age was impossible to place walked over.  His leathered brown skin and silver hair maybe made him look older than he probably was.  He stood on the street next to me less than a foot from me, he took hold of the rickshaw, I did not feel in danger.  He wrapped the fingers of his left hand around the rickshaw bar locking his deep dark brown eyes on mine, then he brought the fingers of his right hand to his lips, telling me without words, in utter silence that he is hungry.  I empty handed, no rupees, no food in my pocket, nothing to share with a man telling me he was suffering.  My gaze did not and could not leave his as I shook my head telling him I could not help.  After an eternity he walked away only to be immediately replaced by a woman.  Maybe 60's but no way to tell, hauntingly beautiful, brown and silver streaked hair, crows feet in the corners of her rich brown eyes, wearing a blue and purple sari she stood 4 and a half feet tall.  Her skin stretched over her bones she stood next to me closing the space between us by placing one hand on my knee as she gazed deeply into my eyes like she was searching for my soul, asking with silence what kind of person I was.  Then she put her other hand to her mouth placing her fingers to her lips like the man before her.   She was asking me not just for food but if I was the kind of person who fed the hungry.  All I could do was look back into her enchanting eyes and with deep shame shake my head no.  

Returning from Greece I found out a homeless woman with mental health issues had set up camp on my front porch.  Within a span of a day and a half she had moved in, trashing my front porch so badly that after my neighbors had the police remove her they had to clean it.  Kindly throwing away rice, cigarette butts, a soiled blanket and other random items she'd accumulated in broad daylight on my front porch to make sure I wasn't alarmed by the mess when I got home.  She came around again Friday (I know it was her because my neighbor had taken video of the police removing her), quietly slipping into my side yard while I watched from inside (on a phone call I couldn't drop) she picked tomatoes from the vines I had plans of clearing this weekend.  Doing nothing but watching her take what she needed, I though, maybe I am the kind of person who feeds the hungry after all.  

Flower pedals on the sidewalk in Udaipur