Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Lohari Tale

For many months now I have neither indulged in a good workout indoors nor taken my exhilarating “Urban Warrior Walks”.

The effects tell: flabby tummy and low spirits.

Today, I made a spur of the moment decision. I asked my husband to drop me on his way to work at a point from which it would take me about an hour to get home.

This is an account of that walk.

I started at about 10 a.m. 

Yesterday morning I re-assumed a more focused insertion of mediation into daily life by sitting facing the photo of the lady with whom I feel comfortable about sharing everything. I did a form of Maitri meditation: starting with my dearest ones and proceeding with all relatives and in-laws and friends, I wished them well (May they be well and happy and prosperous and surrounded by goodwill at all times). 

Today I condensed it by taking this wish and the list of people and offering it to Her. I also proceeded to spread this desire for Happiness, Health and Abundance to larger groups, to beings seen and unseen, objects animate and inanimate.

As this routine was completed I began to take photos of the small roadside commercial enterprises.

The first such as I began my walk sold melons and tender coconuts. The sellers lounged and observed me with lazy curiosity.

These screens are used to shelter rooms from the oncoming brutal Delhi summer heat. 

A part of me wanted to meander off the main road into the mud paths and maybe even into the pathless urban wilderness but I had spotted a small group of tents on the roadside as we drove to my starting point and I wished to interact with these “gypsies”.

Throughout my years in Delhi and particularly since we moved to Gurgaon, I have observed these families who pitch tent by the roadside. They used to be mainly engaged in some sort of metal work: implements of various kinds. Wooden rope cots, some mattresses or quilts, hookahs, women in very exotic garments, grubby children playing amidst urban rubbish, sometimes a goat or two tethered to a post-who are they, I wondered?

Some of the shots of small roadside vendors that I took have not come out well-they were basically a cigarette seller and a shack selling wooden boards. A mother dog and her pups crossed my path as I approached the tent dwellings.

The first tent had a surly couple who wanted money for my taking photos.

At the second there was the invitation to write their story.

The lady strikes a deep chord in me: she and I are not so different and she knows it. Her husband, like mine, looks younger. She sits like a queen and after the children move into the picture she rises and begins the day’s work, hauling a cot to one side, pounding dried red chilies in a stone mortar with a wooden pestle.

The man says they used to live in the land Chittorgarh when Maharajah Pratap Singh ruled. When there was a war with the invading Muslims, their people got dispersed, moving from place to place, working with metal: loharis.

There is distraction from the young lady and when I turn, the father has gone.

The girl says she does not want to get married. No, no one will get her married off against her will. She looks prettily lazy like any young Indian girl of any other social strata. She says they have moved 4 times that she can remember. She says she gets ill when they move. But there is no suffering on her face. They have an enclosed space for bathing I am told but to answer nature’s call there are the bushes. The girls do not seem overly distressed at that. 

Soon I am ready to move on and pay my respects to the mother. “Stay for lunch”, she says. I reply that much work awaits me at home and I walk on.

And then there is Darshan of the Lord. Even so had they tied you, Baby God, and You pulled the tree out by its roots! I laugh and say this and a young man also laughs with me (the child’s father?).

And then I pass the man who grazes the buffaloes and enter the park. Spring is fast drying up into summer but some flowers linger. 

The park is peaceful. A young man sits on a bench munching something out of a paper packet. Like most young men that I pass, he is listening to music through earphones.

These brothers are enjoying a snack.

The park swings are fully and joyously used by the families of labourers building palatial homes in the neighbourhood.

My one hour walk has left me with inner strength, a place of peace in the clamour within and a nice flow of energy through the body.  

But maybe I should re-visit the Loharis and learn their story more fully?