Cloud Ten; A Glimpse Into an Indian

On one very important day I went to pick up a special item at the post office in my township of Pune. It was a document of immense impact here in India, and actually one that I wasn’t supposed to have, so I was filled with anticipation. I went into the office and as usual attracted, a significant amount of attention. As an American Jewish male mixed with African-American descent along with the kind of demeanor that I present, I am often received in a type of manner that apparently warrants recognition. It was early in the morning and many people were scuffling around performing their various duties to get the mail out. After I made it known why I was there, I stood and looked around with fascination because I had never seen such a manual kind of operation. It was so obsolete and primitive. Most of the men were dressed in uniform, the women draped in their usual vibrant saris. After some time, a rather miniature-looking fellow approached me. He was scarcely five feet tall, and noticeably low on body weight. The teeth remaining in his mouth were crooked and dark brown. I noticed instantly how completely oblivious he was of his appearance. And for this reason I found him quite intriguing. His smile, while noticeably missing several teeth, still had a charm to it. And this charm was becoming more and more intriguing to me, bordering on being pleasing to the eye, though for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why. His job was to sweep and clean so he was dressed in a rather shabby manner. In fact, his clothing was filthy, perhaps it had never even been washed. But this did not seem to matter to him. After all, it was just clothing and if it were cleaned, it would just become dirty again, so what would be the point? This is how many Indians think. It was absolutely clear that what this man had on his body was of no consequence to him at all. I noticed him looking in my direction several times as he continued sweeping, smiling all the while. He was also bare footed, which is a common thing when a person is indoors in India. He eventually paced his way over to my space, and was wearing a quite jovial expression on his face. He reached out his small shriveled up hand to shake mine, which is uncommon for the peasant type people to do here. He couldn’t speak one word of English, but this was of no consequence to him at all. He just wanted to meet me and smile, that was all. While I tried to figure out what this introduction was all about, this man just stood there with his happy smile, full of brownish colored teeth. I saw something in him though that taught me something I will never forget. After leaving there I got in my car and drove to Mumbai. I was extremely happy to have received the document that I came there for but even more, I found myself thinking about this little happy man. He was on my mind. He left an impression on me. I kept trying to make sense of how he could possibly be so pleased with himself. He was quite an unsightly person, but there was nonetheless something compelling about him. I was driving down the road and all of a sudden it came to me, this little man was simply happy! I reveled in this realization because his happiness was not as apparent as one would have thought. There were a lot of possibilities; I know because I tried entertaining many of them. The simple truth was that he was just very comfortable with who he was and little else mattered to him. Upon my coming to this discovery, I began to meditate on how beautiful he was in this comfort he had with himself. In spite of only being a cleaning man who was likely earning very meager wages, he was at peace with himself. Even though I was exhibiting comparatively very expensive things on me like gold and diamonds, a very costly watch etc., he did not feel any aggression towards me. In fact, he wanted to extend his graces towards me respectfully, and affectionately. It wasn’t as if he was envious or anything. He didn’t seem to yearn being anything like me, it was clear that he was quite pleased being in his skin. But he acknowledged our differences and seemed proud to step up to show me who he was! It was so beautiful! As my journey to Mumbai continued, so did my contemplation. It wasn’t so smooth a ride, but I knew there was something more about this fellow for me to learn. This man who was well into his forties represents a great majority of India’s population in one very significant way. They are a people of respect, no matter what they have or don’t have. If you have something it is good for you. If they have something it is also good. But people are not concerned with comparisons; they are not interested in things like what somebody has or doesn’t have. Somebody can acknowledge that you have something that they do not have, but they will not condemn you for it. On the contrary, they will approach you with high esteem, sometimes with great admiration. Somebody is driving a Mercedes-Benz; somebody else is riding a bicycle. Indians don’t involve themselves with this disparity. They are both a means of transportation and will both get you to where you’re going. Some people sleep on very expensive mattresses, and others sleep on the pavement. What’s the difference? You are sleeping, they are sleeping. The distinction is merely a detail. Indians don’t give much thought to details. In India people do things with purpose. They do not burden themselves much with desire, and as a result are much healthier and happier with what they have. Nobody is crying about not having a home, or something like shoes. If you need to go somewhere, you can walk. If it rains you get wet; when it stops, then you get dry again. Weather is a very insignificant detail to Indians also. There is no problem with it. It’s just something that happens. A hut is as much a home as any other house; you live in it. Bare feet are as effective a means of transportation as any other; they get you to where you’re going. Indians are very pragmatic people. There is an extraordinary beauty with people who are at such peace. The outer self can be beautiful, but just in and of itself, it means nothing. The outer person is simply a façade, it serves as a mask to hide the inner. With this particular individual, I experienced such enormous beauty in him that it would probably be inconceivable if he were to know that I was so touched, and taught by him. I feel certain that he would feel so humbled if only he were to know that he moved me in a similar way that I moved him. People are very unpretentious in India. They feel a great sense of gratitude to others. Indians are obliging people, and are especially so to foreigners. There is a sense of pride that you have come to visit their country.This day was truly a delightful experience; it was enlightening to me. It provided an insight I had never before had. If this man was acting through oblivion it would have been one thing, but he wasn’t. He acted with full awareness and intent. In the quiet corners of his contentment, he simply wanted to touch a man who was very different than he was, and he did. This “peasant” of a very sweet man taught me something quite priceless, which is that true beauty really is…skin deep.

DWP 2013