Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Moment the World Stopped

It’s been a while since I posted my adventures in India. So I thought I’d share a lovely experience I had today. It was the most contradictory thing I've experienced thus far.

The streets were quiet as I traveled from Paldi Cross, through Ellisbridge en route to the Himalaya Mall. Tranquil even. The heat of summer floated on a soft breeze generated by the auto-rick ( a 3-wheeler with a roof and no sides) I was traveling in.

There were very few cars on the road; a motorcycle calmly passed by us, an elegant woman in a vivid
colored sari perched side-saddle on back; a man leisurely pushed a vendor cart along the side of the road, while another man on a bicycle peddled around him.

There were no sounds; most of the shops were closed. It was Sunday.

The whole scene was something that Norman Rockwell would have painted – if he painted about Indian culture. But this wasn’t typical Indian culture as I’ve come to know it during my three years living in Bangalore. Or for that matter,nothing was a still in any of the places I’ve visited in India – Hampi, Pondicherry, Madurai, Kerala -- Cochin and Moonaar, Delhi, Jaipur, Udipur, Mysore and others. Not even Goa was a peaceful as this day, at this moment. Perhaps when I was in the jungle it was this peaceful, but that was a few years ago so hard to compare.  The only place I an recall giving me that sense of tranquility was Cafayate Argentina.

Like days of old, time had slowed. The mind and body had time to absorb the world around them, uninterrupted by sounds and turbulence.

It reminded me of my youth, growing up in the suburbs of Brooklyn, New York. Our tree-lined street in the Midwood section of town was quiet like that, especially on Sunday, during an era when the shops there were closed too. So quiet was it on these days you’d never know you were in the heart of one of the most vibrant cities of the world: New York City.

The heat today was that urban heat kind of heat you’d find in New York City in June. But I was a long way from New York City. Ahmedabad is in the state of Gujarat located in the northwestern part of India.          

What struck me first, I soon realized, was that there was no driving chaos. In fact, for a city that drives more chaotic than driving in Bangalore, it was alien to sit there and see people stopping at traffic signals, not weaving and trying to pass each other to gain a 5-meter advantage. There were no dog packs barking -- perhaps even they enjoyed slumbering on this Sunday. But most amazingly was that I hadn’t heard a horn in almost 10 minutes. That is not something most in India can claim experiencing.  

Nothing lasts forever, and so was the case today as we traveled closer to the mall. It all seemed to change at one intersection: suddenly all vehicles from all directions were pushing their way through, horns were blaring, and the world returned to normal.

But, if only for ten minutes I was given a break from the madness of the world, and enjoyed it immensely.    

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