Musings about life and death

Friday, Nov 28, 2008 at 19:01

takenbyaliens (Life Member)

Life is a wonderful thing and I do sometimes wonder if we value it as much we should…not just our own life but those of others. Like yours, my thoughts over this last period have been on the desperately sad loss of XXXXXXXXXXX. At some stage I thought about a whimsical Leunig cartoon in which his premise is that the good things and qualities about a person are randomly passed on to the next generation and somehow I really do hope that this is the case with XXXX.

The cutting short of life is distressing and as I watch life and death here in India I never cease to be amazed at the resilience of the human spirit. I also never cease to be amazed at the two ends of the spectrum and wonder what miracle of fate decrees to which side one gets borne, especially here in India where the divide is so evident.

On one side of a wall and just outside the manicured oasis of the hotel ( and visible from my window ) lives a group of people in concrete water pipes. Not the large ones but rather the small ones, crawling in is the only way. There is no running water so they carry large containers some distance every day, no coverage from the elements other than the pipes, no toilet facilities and obviously no electricity so cooking and light comes from fires fueled mostly by cow dung or rubbish. The children, and there are quite a few, are emaciated and filthy. They will spend their days begging at traffic lights or on pavements. Their voices are always deep and husky due I would guess to the constant exposure to dust and traffic fumes. The adults look like mere shells of people out of whom all the life has been squeezed. If they have work, it will be in the worst occupations…rag pickers or sanitary workers or dump collectors. Their wildest dream would be to earn fifty rupees in a day ( app $1.60 ). A major food source is the hotel bins where they will have to fight off crows and dogs for whatever scraps that may have been left after the hotel staff have had first choice. I simply cannot conceive of what their life must be like.

Nor can I conceive of the other side of life here on this side of the wall. Last night I went to a wedding. I had noticed all the preparations around the hotel garden and so at the appointed time I went down and presented myself asking could I attend as an observer, not to partake of the meal but merely to watch the ceremony. And so it happened that I went to a Hindu wedding ceremony. I could not understand what was being said but it was interesting to see the ceremonial and symbolical aspects and to again recognise that like pain and loss, joy is also a universal emotion. It was quite a large wedding by Australian standards ( my count was around 400 guests ) and much money had been spent. I discovered that the groom was the son of an industrialist and that the whole event would cost well over R3M ( around $90000 ) which buys comparatively quite a lot in India. Of course that amount pales compared to the USD 11M spent by the Mittal family ( India’s richest ) for a recent wedding held in London ( they flew something like 1700 guests from India! ).

The arrival of the groom and bride was preceded by a long procession of lit up dancers and many fireworks were set off as they came up the road. ( No safety requirements here, just let them off in the middle of the road, the cars will go around them. ) After a while the groom arrived and with all his friends and relatives made a processional circum of the venue, stopping before a dais upon which was placed a regal lounge suite with backdrop etc.

Soon after, the bride entered attended by her friends and relatives. Her male relatives had donned flowing red silk turbans and carried above her a frame covered by a silk rope net. She made her way to the dais and then both the bride and groom stepped up, now with the net held between them as in a barrier and with their respective families behind them. After someone saying quite a few words ( in Hindi or Urdu? ), the net was removed, flower petals were thrown and we all clapped and both families came together and mixed symbolizing that two families were now one. A long photo session ensued after which the bride, groom and parents went to a temple that had been erected. Whilst they stayed there for the rest of the night, the guests went off to eat and celebrate. More fireworks were sent skywards. ( In fact it must have been a propitious day as there were lots of fireworks, signaling other weddings, all across the sky. ) Ten chefs slaved over the stoves and the 100 odd bain maries were full of an amazing selection of food. ( I guess those outside the wall would not see or maybe even eat that much food in all their life.)

Yet for all this wealth I wonder if there is much substance to their lives. It would appear that many such ‘new rich’ people work hard to be ‘seen’, throwing parties to which they invite sundry actors, politicians and cricketers whom they barely know, but just so they make the social pages of the Times of India or similar. Evidence of the cracks in their morality appear daily…murders committed by the scions of the rich and trials corrupted by their powerful parents…massive bribery exposed but got away with…the list is quite endless.

So like many things in life, the experiences of India ensure a reality check…a humbling of the soul…and an admiration of the human spirit of those who continue every day to struggle for life even as poor and hard as it may be.

How many lives could be changed, let alone saved??? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the wall could be moved just like the silken screen??
According to modern astronomers, space is finite..a very comforting thought particularly for people who can never remember where they left things
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