On the Road :: All Aboard Dehra Dun
9 June 2009
The idea of this lace as a land of contrasts hit me today onboard a train from Delhi to Dehra Dun. There is blinding poverty everywhere I turn, but also undeniable warmth. Piles of garbage haphazardly strewn separate the train tracks from large expanses of green rice fields. Women wearing beautiful saris have their luggage loaded onto the car by thin thin men, their faces dark from days and nights spent under the hot sun.
I thought that the sight of slums would depress me, and yet I feel amazed at people’s resilience and abiity to construct homes for themselves out of so little. The people here have made homes from corrugated steel and plastic tarps and have squeezed themselves into unwanted land – making a home out of what others have rejected. I wonder at the ability to find love and family amongst the extreme harshness of this poverty; not to idealize the condition, but to marvel at the adaptability of spirit that moves us to connect with each other in spite of our surroundings.
These are my people, and yet there is an unreality about being here that occupies most moments. I feel as though time and place are suspended. I never know what time it is, either here or at home, and my head spins from the difference in time – day feels like night, and my stomach growls while I sleep. The flexibility of time amazes me each second I actively contemplate it – the hours feel to stretch before me while on this train, yet upon sleeping, to collapse into themselves.
I find myself craving the cleaner air and expansive sky of home; the absence of things that assault my senses. It is strange to begin to see home as that which is defined by absence, rather than presence, and yet to also see this place in its difference as lacking what I have at home. I wonder when the balance will turn to loving what is here rather than what is not.
On the Road :: Hello India - June 4 2009