Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth. What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness. How you ride and ride thinking the bus will never stop, the passengers eating maize and chicken will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness, you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho lies dead by the side of the road. You must see how this could be you, how he too was someone who journeyed through the night with plans and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. You must wake up with sorrow. You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread, only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say It is I you have been looking for, and then goes with you everywhere like a shadow or a friend.
This is the grinding, cutting screeching of the little mesters, the small independent traditional workshops making knives in my home city of Sheffield the cutlery capital of England.
Except it isn’t.
It feels like they’ve followed me all the way to where I live now in the genteel middle-class Siddarthanagar in Mysore.
It’s the third night of this infernal racket going on past 9 in the evening and comes from the construction site behind — making it almost impossible to have evening (international time difference) important zoom calls — so, I complain to the workers. They are cutting and grinding marble, tiles, steel and concrete. The noise should stop at the very latest at 7.00, (the actual rule is they should stop earlier) one of the workers seems to understand. That’s good, message received and understood.
But it’s not so straightforward. Is anything in India?
The construction site belongs to the next door downstairs neighbour (Jain), and he discussed this with his upstairs neighbour (who’s Brahmin) who raises it with his neighbour (Lingayat), who I cycle with most mornings, who talks to me (the Firangi aka foreigner). I might be joking but these labels of religion and community are very significant. So a simple matter of neighbourliness, and sound sensitivity becomes a big issue at the corner. They, that’s the Jain with the support of the Brahmin decide to allow the workers to continue making the noise into the evening and ignore me. The Lingayat is just the messenger 🙂
Once I realise the molehill is becoming a foot hill, I go to speak directly to the site owner, my neighbour of some years. He refuses to speak, looks down, can’t catch me in the eye and does some rude brushing away movement with his hands. Blimey.
There’s more to being kind than feeding the cows
Frankly, in my view, it should be obvious that such noise in the evening isn’t on, regardless that it’s against the regulations. Rules, what are they? Various friends agree. But lack of awareness, indifference, who knows what has stopped the bleeding obvious being well, obvious. Now they know but don’t care, they stick the proverbial finger up.
To make sure I understand, I’m cold-shouldered by the Jains and the Brahmins.
The foothill becomes a mountain. This is quite unbelievable.
The fool of the father (Jain) even instructs his young daughters to have nothing to do with the foreigner.
On a normal day and time, Lucie and I are constantly greeted, by the local children, as we walk down the street with smiles, hellos and waves but not by his two, not anymore. Hence I refer to the infantile behaviour of the kindergarten. The poor girls stick out like a sore thumb not greeting the foreigner, because of the childishness of their father.
I now realise its a common unsophisticated way of communication. For example: there’s three parts of a family live a few hundred yards away from each other who have not communicated for decades. I hear of families not talking because of perceived snubs at a wedding and how the invites had been issued.
I’ve discussed with people that I know from the Jain community who are embarrassed and apologetic and Brahmin friends, who are politically liberal anti-elitist, just shrug their shoulders and ask why I’m surprised. People talk about bad karma for the house and how they shouldn’t treat ‘guests’ like this. Me, I’ve given up.
Jain friends in England point out, that there’s more to being kind than feeding cows by the roadside.
Come on guys, get a grip. Life is too short. So I have to take the high road and provide a different example.
So Let’s be positive.
following the path of Manjula the muse, the moose, my guru
I therefore haven’t pursued this, previously I might have, mercilessly. Now I’ve adjusted, live and let live.
I don’t want the poor innocent girls affected anymore, or their new house to have a bad vibe, our respective rewards will arrive.
I hope Manjula will be contentedly happy with my approach.
We’re bursting at the seams. Wherever you turn there’s evidence.
We now have plants in the drive out the front, inside and outside the gate, down both sides of the house, in the back yard and on the mid level roof. There’s hundreds of them. We plan to create a small garden in the park this year so that will use half the plants. Let’s hope the mosquitoes will go with them.
Most Indian houses have little if any art. It’s an unnecessary (not) expense and very middle class. As I arrived with the latest offering MAnjula would complain that there was too much art and not room for anymore. Wrong!
Our latest addition
An earlier addition was this beautiful portrait.
There’s always room for art.
Next Manjula would joke about there being too many books, and how we should open a library.
So here it is…. Manjula’s library… available for local friends and our guests. (Yes they’re also friends.)
and that’s carefully avoiding mentioning anyone who’s bursting at the seams.
for working together to create this beautiful image.
‘Beloved’ A portrait of Manjula
Stephen’s love for Manjula . Weaves a bridge, between our worlds. A bridge made of heart strings, a bridge of exploration to the multi dimensional. Manjula’s love for Stephen. Pierces through the veil, as a warm ray on a chilly day.
by Aadirika Kawa
Manjula would laugh and tease me, claiming we already had too many paintings. I can’t get enough of her.
Thank you for my wonderful Christmas present and presence.