I’m reading a book by V.S. Naipaul, A Million Mutinies Now, about his travels through India in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The last time I read Naipaul, I wrote a critical essay of his book A Turn in the South for a my history professor in Atlanta… (?) New Orleans (?) (I can’t remember exactly where. I was always taking classes until I had kids.) Anyway, the professor was nearly apoplectic reading my paper – he was a huge fan of Naipaul’s and I distinctly remember him commenting, not so kindly, that I had a unique take on the book. I was reluctant to read Mutinies until a friend of mine mentioned that it was an insightful look into the intricacies of India. We were discussing India’s diversity and the challenges of understanding the national psyche, if there is one.
I mention the book for this reason – one clause that caught my attention in chapter three: “The India of many feeble hands doing simple small tasks.” When I read this, I think of the million mutinies that occur daily – not the capitalized title of the book, but the lower case, lower caste hands that rebel against a shitty life by doing the tasks that keep these hands alive and productive – sweeping, collecting, sorting, fixing, selling, begging, cutting, ironing, butchering, carrying, scrubbing, cooking. For many, it is mutiny simply to survive here and mutiny to believe that life will improve. It’s painful sometimes to watch the many hands that make a day turn here when your own hands are not so feeble and when your own tasks are not so simple. Today, I am bullish on India and I can’t help believe that with time, growth, democracy and the natural attrition of a corrupt bureaucracy, India will become a place of many strong hands using the tools of a modern world. Ask me tomorrow and I may not be so bullish. Optimism is sometimes fleeting here.
A few shots from our Thanksgiving trip to Rishikesh… Our train looked just like this one, only our car had fewer passengers:
George and a friend on the Ganges:
I have a friend who is into Ayurvedic medicine and he says George is water and Eddie is earth:
(And I am air with a touch of fire – Jim argues the reverse…) Preparing to hit the rapids:
Warming up, like lizards on a log:
Our tent. (We teased Jim for exposing his southern roots by putting the furniture outside…)
A slice of our Thanksgiving family:
A beggar in the train station on our way home. Look at her hands:
And that’s me in real-time, writing this post. This perch in my bedroom is brilliant with sunshine and toasty warm during the winter. We don’t have heat and the house gets very cold: