Tuesday, April 22, 2014

One word to describe India: Hopes

I will be attempting over a few blog posts to write some of my thoughts about India by collecting them around one word.  This is my first attempt.
I began writing this using the word "Expectations", then realized that "Hopes" was a better choice.  I was initially inspired by our trip to Darjeeling where Nancy and I arrived with great hopes of seeing the Himalayas, only to have three days of cloudy, cold weather. 
Our best view of Darjeeling from the toy train ...
The closest we came to seeing the mountains

India is densely populated with hopes.

Beggars tap on the windows of cars hoping for a coin or scrap of food,
With hopeful songs of hawkers and vendors assailing passing ears.
Crows hop between cars hoping to grab a bite of road-killed rat
While Party members desperately hope for a majority vote.
Drivers confidently thrust their vehicles into packed intersections
Hoping and somehow knowing that a path will magically appear.

Families move to the crowded city slums in hopes of a better life
and quirky television commercials raise ideas of how it can be lived.
Children attend after-school classes hoping for high exam scores,
Mothers dream of degrees in law, or medicine, or engineering,
While fathers of daughters look for ways to raise the needful dowries,
And consult with the pandit for an auspicious wedding date.

NGO's hope to make a small difference in the lives
of their carefully identified slices of the teeming masses,
some of whom huddle in their makeshift shelters lined
against the back walls of the luxury hotels where
CEO's make deals over buffet lunches and dream of record profits,
growing market shares and low labor costs.

Stray dogs lounge all day on the sidewalks, waiting for the evening
and the hope of a handout of food scraps while
Black kites circle slowly in the warm updrafts
looking hopefully down on the world below.
As the days become hotter, farmers hope for good rains to come:
The entire year revolves around the hope of the monsoon.

India is nothing if it is not a land of hopes.
-- -- -- --
We have our first-world hopes too.

We hope for quiet spaces amidst the growing cacophony
of horns and loud mall music and night-barking street dogs.

We hope to maintain the fond memories of wonderful people
whose essence can't be captured by a few photographs.

We hope to see past the poverty and pollution
to experience the awe-inspiring vistas,
the mountains soaring skyward into cold blue skies,
and white marble mausoleums reflecting back the early morning light.

Trying to reflect back a hint of the gracious welcome and friendly manner of the people
who greet us each day, we dearly hope to stave off the day
when we become the jaded, self-absorbed ex-pats thinking
only of our next vacation and nodding sagely as we tell each other:
Tee Eye Eye
This Is India.

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