Moments in “time”

Moments in “time”

It’s Sunday evening now, and I’ve just completed my first, full weekend in Deoghar. Despite the forced solitude of “foreigner status”, I kind of enjoyed learning the pattern of work and errands that must be accomplished on “free days” so that the traditional Indian work-week (Monday through Saturday) can start over again. Suffice to say, I made several trips into the market for groceries, produce, food storage containers, fabrics, hangers and other items. There was also much cleaning and laundry to be done – by hand and bucket.

Aside from the mundane preoccupations of the weekend, I did break away for an essential, exploratory walk… toward an end of town that had yet to be seen. It proved to be a bustling thoroughfare, one on which you can access the downtown market, or travel outside Deoghar to the nearest train station.

Along this road, I lost myself once again in the very unique “feeling” that I seem to find here in India. It’s a strange, suspended sort of peacefulness, despite the frenzy and crowding of everything around me. The blaring horns of jeeps, rickshaws and motorcycles are endless and jarring, accentuated by the visual mayhem of the roadway. Cows cross in the middle of traffic with almost complete disregard and concern, while vehicles swerve and loop around them in sudden and dangerous movements. By contrast, the numerous, mangy stray dogs dart about like frightened rats, perpetually uncertain and unwanted, perpetually in the steady and direct path of oncoming traffic. Still, amidst all this, everywhere my eye catches the sudden bright spot of an orange and grape display on the side of the road, or a vendor’s stall of incredibly beautiful fabrics and wool – unexpected and colorful against the brown, dusty backdrop.

And everywhere, I share long, silent stares deep into the brown eyes of those who walk beside me.

My silent and anonymous companions speak to me without words. It’s as if they understand my uncertainty about whether I can accomplish the work I have come here to do, and whether I am adapting to this new life. They smile with their eyes, and they wordlessly encourage me to move in simple footsteps – easy, forward steps. I always smile back at them, endlessly reassured by our silent communication, which typically happens in the tiny flash of time that it takes for our smiles to reach each other, or our eyes to connect.

I am listening to, and learning from, that strange new vibration of peacefulness that seems to be blooming all around me here and now.

And so, it doesn’t surprise me that the sound to which I am falling asleep tonight is one that I’m beginning to know well… Train whistles, eerie and forlorn, announce arrivals and departures from Deoghar all night long, and I can hear them in the distance. It’s as if they keep reminding me that time is passing; that this experience is changing and ending even as it happens. After all, it was a train that brought me here just a week ago, and, although my departure train is not due for many months, that train, the one that will take me away from Deoghar, is already on the tracks… somewhere.

Indeed, “time” may be little more than a human construct, but it’s also a valuable reminder of the significance and meaning of the moments, encounters, and experiences contained within.

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[This is an excerpt from a journal I kept while working in India years ago. I lived and worked in a very remote, rural town called Deoghar, near the border of Bangladesh. This specific journal entry was written on February 3, 2008.]

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