February 20, 2008
From my third story room – at Hotel Arjun – I have a birds-eye view of the street below. The Main Bazaar; one of the busiest places in Delhi. Complete madness reigns in the street. Never a hollow space. Every square inch covered with life. As I stand in silence and watch the moving landscape, I think to myself that I can learn all lessons here. In quiet observation. Free of judgment, anxiety, thought. Just watch, listen, learn. Removed from it, while also a part of it.
Traffic, of all kinds, never ceases. Meandering cows (and their splattering dung), feral dogs (who sleep during the day after a busy night of running wild in packs), relentless beggars, ware hawkers, slick salesman, motor and cycle rickshaws, bicyclists, scooters, trucks, tractors, wedding processions, motorcycles, ox-pulled carts, global travelers. Everyone jostling to claim their space in the chaos.
Music blares, but still the cacophonic horns trump the melodic notes rising skyward. Sometimes a dozen horns at a time. Vying for the right-of-way on a road barely wide enough for one midsize vehicle. When two pass each other, with a motorcycle in between, cows and pedestrians on either side, the mind nor eyes can bend to accommodate the seamless way they pass each other without mishap. Indians will tell us, ‘everything is possible in India’. Indeed.
Shops line both sides of the street, most of them selling colorful wares to travelers, though Gulam, a Kashmiri travel/tour merchant tells me that eight years ago it was primarily a street for the locals. A lot of bangle shops for Indian women. Now most anything can be had here. As I wander down and back up the street, I am offered a sundry of fried foods, cotton clothing, mendhi tattooing, tours to anywhere in India, tobacco (or hashish if I need something stronger), chai, pashmina shawls and carpets from Kashmir, jewelry, taxi rides, maps, fresh fruit, or chances to redeem myself by filling a beggars cup or by giving rupees for chapattis (Indian flat bread). A tapping on the back of the arm followed by a small voice asking for alms. Matted-hair women with a sleeping child attached to them. Wide-eyed three and four-year olds tugging at my sleeve with unapologetic pleas for money. Working the street for a living. Tiny little outstretched hands crusted with their dirty life.
The verve seeps into and fills my room, keeping it lit up with commotion at all hours. Bouncing off my walls and marching on the marble floors. Stealing through every open crevice. It’s only when I judge it, absorb it, that it affects me. I have learned to let it flow by me with relative ease, unaffected by the madness. Watching it from above or strolling in step with it in the street, it has become my meditation.