An Opportunity for Sandeep (c)

Sandeep had a problem. He did not know where home is, and felt stranded.

His experience was one of belonging to no place, and feeling drawn to and rejected by two places simultaneously.

He was born in India, and spent a part of his childhood there. Circumstances forced his family to move to the U.S., and he and his family never made it back, not even for a visit. He effectively grew up in the U.S., and his primary language became English, instead of Telugu—his native tongue and a language spoken in a southern Indian state. Moreover, he ate and preferred the simplicity of American foods. In spite of all this, India was almost always somewhere in the crevices of his mind.

Then, the idea to visit planted itself, as if it had been a dormant seed hovering in the air, abiding its time and waiting to find a spot to lie in and sprout. Perhaps it finally found fertility and fervor in his confusion. With his persistent discontent nurturing it, it eventually became enough of a presence to build some hope, that, like a ship sailing with the wind toward its home port, he too would find his home.

But, his first day in his native town was full of shocks. It was a small city, but, as typical in India, the roads were crowded with motorized and non-motorized vehicles, and yet the city had only a few traffic lights. All kinds of wheels crisscrossed within a foot or two of each other in continuous motion. To add to his shock, most of the vehicles did not abide by the same rules he knew. The left side was the driving side, but about a quarter of vehicles drove in the opposing direction of each side. These combinations made crossing streets an unsolicited adventure, or misadventure. Moreover, the horns were a constant; in fact, the backs of trucks encouraged it, having ‘sound your horn’ on just about every commercial vehicle. Beeping went hand-in-hand with driving.

That same day, he noticed a man throwing a candy wrapper on the street; still, a wrapper was nothing compared to watching another man lean over a bridge’s edge and dump a bagful of trash onto a river.

And then there was time, and it being a low priority to locals, including his cousins. Departing to play football with his cousins never materialized because they arrived too late into the evening.

How can they live like this? He asked myself on that first day, and on the second, and the third.

Then, on the fourth day, he agreed to accompany a couple of cousins on a visit to Old Town. When they finally arrived to that part of the city, he found himself actually admiring the area. The main road there was narrow, barely allowing one motorized rickshaw in each direction. He noticed that beautiful and bright colors were abound. Dyes, fabrics, pictures. The colors were so vibrant that he easily believed they were somehow alive.

While still walking in Old Town, he noticed a man cleaning his rickshaw, its back green, shiny, reflecting the sun’s rays. On the opposite side of the narrow street, a woman pushed a cart full of fruit; and a priest adorned in orange robes prayed in a small temple about the size of a large cardboard box, with flowers and a lit wick in front of statues depicting the supernatural.

A few vehicles shone and sparkled. And, just like colors, people’s voices and other sounds came from so many directions—the woman with the cart called out to potential buyers; bells rang and called various deities. It was confusing. Chaos and beauty, depending on his choice. But there still was more.

Some people walked barefoot, and seemed so comfortable with it. He looked at his shoes at one point, and thought that he certainly would not walk around without them.

But are they more connected… to earth… than I am?

Even if they were, I would not walk without shoes.

They seem so comfortable…

I value cleanliness… and quietness, and punctuality, and I consider these necessary… for maintaining my dignity.

Dignity? The idea is a construct.

The contrasting extremes battled in his head.

Where is their pride! One side exclaimed, pointing to what he saw as chaos and a lack of rules.

Pride is evident everywhere. The other side asserted, with thoughts of colors and activity.

He battled with both extremes. The stranded theme continued behind the guise of indecisiveness.

His mind embraced and depended on predictability and planning, and rejected carefree living, refusing to throw a banana peel anywhere except into some receptacle. This part of him was furious at his birth place, and at himself for being born there. On the other hand, his insides longed to join in, to be with them, and like them.Not necessarily throwing trash around, but living with fewer concerns and fewer self-made restrictions and rules.

But it was them… they… Everyone was them and they. When in the U.S., he bemoaned the lack of connection, and the many rules, and the hours of work, while also longing to be part of a workplace to which he commuted to and fro in trains along with co-workers and neighbors.

Stranded. I am stranded, he continued with dismay.

But was he really?

The question crossed his mind, that maybe he was simply a rejection-ist. And, if so, he wondered if it were possible to change?

Worth a try, he thought after a few more days. India, after all, is home to the teachings of how to connect with the higher self.

About a year before, a friend told him that there were so many gurus and yogis in India because of India; that the land offered energies to assist with insight and connection. At that time, Sandeep dismissed this friend as an almost-lunatic. Now, this idea was a curiosity and more. Another day and it became a possibility. He searched online and inquired with his cousins, then decided to try ten days of silent meditation at a center in a rural area outside the city. It was a good opportunity. He would sleep and eat there, and perhaps with silence he could finally hear the deeper parts of himself, find answers, and make a decision.

The first day at the center proved physically arduous. He was required to sit for prolonged periods in the lotus pose, but he stuck to it. The second and third days were more of the same, except with more concentration on breathing. The fourth was torture. Sitting time was extended to at least one hour of no movement at all. His body ached and screamed, but he encouraged himself to keep at it.

He learned about being aware of sensations and remaining equanimous; and, eventually, managed a few times with a calm and quiet mind

The end of the tenth day came, and with hope he left the center to return to his cousins. He walked along a road dividing two farms. As he approached the main road to try to find a ride back, his ears began to hear the horns and the engines, and felt the same aversion as before. He took a deep breath, and sighed. Alas, the horns had persisted, and the intermittent peace he had found would not return. It did not occur to him to try and just be; instead, his eyes welled in frustration. Sadly, the silent meditation did not quite help him learn how to accept his surroundings.

He had time; albeit little of it, it was time nonetheless. Opportunities will continue to knock on his door as the law of life goes; and, per some words from Walter Malone, every day opportunity stands outside our doors, while with sunrise every soul is born again. And so with Sandeep. He too will have more opportunities.

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

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