Quite a week
on Roundabouts in Delhi (India), 09/Sep/2011 14:40, 34 days ago
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Evenby Delhi’s standards this has been quite a week. Abomb blaston Wednesday andan earthquake the evening of that same day, then today I left my apartment todiscover that my colony looked like a scene out of Waterworld. It seems themonsoon rains had been holding back in order to dump several days’ worth ofrain in the space of two hours.I’msure people will have read about the bomb blast so I won’t go into details herebut thankfully none of my friends or colleagues in Delhi were caught up in itat the time. The earthquake was a strange experience. It was my firstearthquake, at least the first I was awake for as I managed to sleepthroughthe last one when it happened a few months back(!), and quite a strong one. It was 11.30pm and Iwas sat out on my rooftop reading when suddenly the whole building started toshake and continued to do so for about 6 seconds. I was confused for the first 2 seconds,then so shocked when I realisedwhat it was and heard other people running outfrom their houses onto the street that I just remained rooted to the spot. By the time I thought perhaps I ought to try and leave the building the rumblinghad stopped. I’m probably not the ‘quick thinker’ you want to be stood near ina natural disaster situation.Thismorning’s monsoon rains provided more light hearted entertainment than seriouscause for concern. I started off my walk to work with water swilling around mylegs at ankle height then by the time I reached half way it had reached calfheight and I stopped to take cover by a shop and roll my leggings up a littlefurther. I had a chat in broken Hindi with the man in the shop who I thinkthought I was slightly crazy to even be attempting to walk any further. As Iwalked on I lurched between patches of high ground and occasionally one of mylegs would disappear down into a pot hole. I was too focused on ploughingforwards to pay much attention but I must have been a pretty ridiculous sight.By the time I reached the Sikh temple, about five minutes from my office, thecycle rickshaws and cars were almost floating through the water. At this pointI’d abandoned all hope of any part of me staying dry and wasmore concernedabout the unidentifiable slimy objects I could feel sliding past my legs. Ipassed one poor lady whose cycle rickshaw driver had abandoned her in themiddle of a river of rushing water, deciding that he’d rather risk her wrath (shewas screaming across at him whilst he stood under a shelter and looked sheepish)than push his rickshaw through the water. Another eventful morning.Thehigh of this week has been the number of offers I’ve received from Indian acquaintancesto come and eat with their families, join in their religious festivals,accompany them in visits to their home States or join their Buddhist chantinggroup. It’s unusual for a week to go by without getting these kind of offersbut I suppose this week it particularly highlighted to me one of the things Ilove about Delhi and India in general, that is the way people are so quick toaccept you as part of their extended family. Sometimes it’s out of concern(none of my Indian friends really understand how I manage to survive living onmy own. I think they thinkI spend 16 hours rocking quietly in a corner untilit’s time to go back to work) but mostly it’s because they genuinely see you asjust another part of their own extended family network. The offer to join theBuddhist chanting group (at least that’s what I call them, the name given wasmuch moreinteresting but I can’t remember it) came from my landlord. I went to pay my rent and electricity to himthe other evening and he passed me a pamphlet about their group which generally promotes world peace and is affiliated with the general Buddhist label?(spot the atheist!) I had to laugh as when I went up to my flat and opened thepamphlet the first page was about working towards,‘A world free of nuclearweapons.’ Not in itself at all funny and a principle I wholeheartedly agreewith, but what made me laugh was how I’ve gone from having a landlady who I’mquite sure, were she given the chance, would rent out her basement for thepurpose of nuclear armament and probably offer to light the fuse, to a landlordthat is campaigning for nuclear disarmament and world peace. Perhaps my endingup here is what’s meant by karma.