But the only soldier now is me
I’m fighting things I cannot see
I think it’s called my destiny
That I am changing.~ Suzanne Vega, Marlene on the Wall
At a prayer meeting that crowds up Mumbai’s Arya Samaj Mandir in the face of death, you realize: This is what life comes down to. An ad in the paper that could perhaps read: sad and sudden demise, in grief, rest in peace. A few moments of fluster, or a long and prolonged illness, and a handful of people who potter in to pay their respect. And other lives that eventually, move on.
I feel less sad, and more flustered as I move from prayer meeting to watering-hole, and begin to guzzle my wine. I laugh a little too loudly. Turn up the music in the rickshaw ride home. Don’t grumble about the traffic. Watch the rain fall. And stay up all night reading.
Katherine Boo’s ‘Beyond the Beautiful Forevers’ is startling. A heartbreaking non-fictitous account of the Annawadi slums that line Bombay’s Airport it tells of the horrors of lives that come to Bombay in hordes, and slip, slide away. The young, and old alike join the ranks of the airport’s illegal waste management system, sifting through piles of airplane waste to collect anything that may have recycle or resale value. Unopened ketchup packets, uneaten buns, used plastic forks and spoons are fought over, bribed for, hoarded, and sold.
It is not an easy life. It is not a life you are meant to understand. It is not a life of an equal God. Every time I can no longer cry, and every time I watch or hold someone who does cry I am certain. Whether you are rich, or whether you are poor…the best of a life can ravage your insides.
Do no think about it though. Think about what you can do, it has been playing on my mind all week now. Think about who you can love, the song you can write, the open road, the endless drive.
And above all, reach a place, where you cannot think.
Sometimes, it is the best you can be.
“I tell Allah I love Him immensely, immensely. But I tell Him I cannot be better, because of how the world is.”
― Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers.