Currently in the fourth most populous city of a country of 1.24 billion inhabitants, “who lives within me in the infinite loneliness of the unique” comes to mind. When evaluating Nicaraguan field experience using heuristics methodology some six years ago, I came across this commanding examination… Within. Infinite. Loneliness. Unique.
Within. Friends kindly warned me of spices, slums, and stardom. One kindred spirit went as far to use the daunting ‘existential crisis’ to describe the way some feel upon experiencing for the first time the beast and beauty that is India. Heuristics guides authentic self-inquiry and dialogue with others in order to illuminate a social phenomenon. Seems an appropriate task in a metropolis where ‘Old City,’ home to bangles galore and a historic mosque accommodating 10,000 worshipers daily, coexists with ‘High Tech City,’ a launch pad of innovative technology striving to connect villages within Andhra Pradesh, southern India, the country, the world.
Infinite. Yesterday we visited Birla Mandir, a Hindu temple completed in 1976 set atop a hill overlooking the sister cities. Over the course of many stairs and ornately sculpted white marble scenes amidst sanctuaries, we discussed Hinduism – a way of life firmly rooted, though with diverging and converging branches. A tall-standing tree, tranquil and thirsty. So as it goes, there are 330 million gods. Not pluralistic, rather, these devas serve as manifestations of the one Supreme Being. This figure is more than 500 deities per village in India. And then perhaps the number 330 million more tangibly symbolizes infinity, indicating infinite forms of God?
Loneliness. On Friday we had the privilege of learning from the devoted assembly at Sivananda Rehabilitation Center, a center (to say the very least) for those with leprosy. One of the physicians asked abruptly, “if God were standing before you, and insisted you choose one disease, one disease only, you will be afflicted with in your lifetime, which would you choose?” Most of us replied with acute, self-limiting ailments such as the common cold or gastroenteristis. He passionately pushed leprosy as it “does not kill.” Now here enters the weightiness of choice and perspective and their varied abilities to shackle and/or liberate. Suppose it depends if you prefer learning presence from the absence or focusing on inputs versus outputs. Viewpoints are ubiquitous and allow for deep breaths.
Unique. Anywhere takes one hour in transit. Streets laden with auto-rickshaws car
rying three to eleven passengers and counting. Honking. Chickens. Bells. Hollering. In the millions sharing the not-so-infinite space within, I have yet to see a sari schema of color and design, each stunning in her own right, repeated. I am one. You are one. We are one.
Existential we are. Crisis we are not.
For two more weeks we will be humming in Hyderabad – I will continue the search for understanding of self and the world in which we live.