We bumped into a caravan of Marwadi folk singers yesterday. What was seeming like a fairly lethargic evening turned into a carnival of song and dance. It started with a few ladies humming a tune I was unknowingly familiar with; and before I knew it, I was lightly tapping my feet to it and then clapping my hands. One after another, the words and phrases of the chorus began trickling up my throat and just like that I was singing with them, a song I had never heard before. Perhaps I was all the encouragement they needed to bring out their ravanhattas and kartals and murlis. And then stood up three women, turning in circles and swirling their hands, to the earthy tunes; one of them was me. The more I heard, the better I understood, and the more enthusiastically I danced to the songs of my homeland.
~ईं पर तनड़ो मनड़ो वारां, ईं पर जीवण प्राण उवारां,
ईं री धजा उडै गिगनारां, धरती धोरां री !~
The people I meet here are exquisite jaan. We think we are unique and unconventional and rebellious and what not, but these people seemed to have been born on opposite-side-of-the-spectrum itself. Some of my most enlightening conversations have happened with people who sit on the roadside everyday, in matted hair and soiled clothes, sharing their morning tea and biscuits with street dogs and cows. You think them to be beggars at first sight, but day by day you realize that they’re never asked you for anything. In fact, they’re all so busy in their own worlds, and each others’ company, chanting God’s name. You think them to be deranged because their level of satisfaction with their lives is indigestible, but when you give them an opportunity to talk, they ask you to choose the language of conversation and whatever you choose, they’re shockingly fluent at it. You give them food, they’ll accept it with gratitude; you look at them with disdain, they’ll smile back benignly. Overcome by curiosity, I couldn’t help but ask one of them. Why do you live this way on the streets? You could do so much better. You could be so much more. To that, the baba on the other side replied so sweetly, what is it that I lack here?
Jaan, he said it with such sheer faith that I did not have the courage to counter question. In fact, all I could be was disgusted at my own prejudices and narrowness. I am no communist but I blame capitalism for making me value a man’s worth based on his house, and car, his fluency in English and the beauty of his wife and the 10 board marks of his children. Come here soon my love, together we’ll feel the density in the fabric of faith that weaves this place together.
The confidence with which they assert themselves is inspiring jaan. For the life of me I can’t certify my own existence with so much confidence, and there they are discussing matters of life and death and God and more with such ease and confidence. Understand me love, this isn’t the confidence of some weed-stricken poverty-ridden naivety; this is their wisdom talking. This may be hard to believe for you perhaps, from so far away, but I urge you to visit here. This place has a life to offer that we haven’t even considered before. Between them and us exists this psychological vacuum and every year I try to lessen it bit by bit. On the streets and off the streets, this place holds the answer to all your questions, doubts and fears.
The question is, where do we draw a line to our disbelief? From where do we begin to selflessly
trust the universe to unfold itself at its own rhythm? At what point do we turn away to our “rational arguments” and try to harbour the flame of endless, unconditional and independent faith?