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Topic: India (02/12/09)
By Lauren Dahl
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Against the houses vendors sit with their wares spread around them and their voices cut through the dull murmur of the crowd, hawking their products with words I cannot understand. In the center of the street dirty men on rickety bicycles weave their way through the people. Occasionally a car will come and force us all to the edges of the narrow street much like peasants making way for the sedan of an important official.
I see a woman in a sari the color of the sunrise stop in front of a wrinkled vendor selling baskets. Both women have the usual bright red dot in the center of their foreheads and their twin suns crease and frown as they haggle over the price. Though I cannot understand their language, I know exactly what they’re saying. Then at last the younger woman hands over the money and the older one the basket and they are smiling; all is well between them now.
I shake my head in wonder as I pass because the ancient vendor who has sat on this corner for centuries and will for centuries to come suddenly gets a phone call. As she flips open her tiny cell phone and begins to talk, I stare in fascination. It is a simple thing to be sure, but I cannot bring myself to reconcile this: the very old and the very new coexisting in peaceful harmony.
The conversation ends and across the city I hear the muezzin calling the Muslim faithful to prayer. Their voices sound as old as the city itself and their call, this public expression of religion, is nothing unusual here. Moments later I come to a Hindu temple and pause to look at the beautiful artwork. But this is more than artwork; it is the spirit of the people.
The day passes smoothly, leisurely, as I watch the people going about their lives. Despite the coming of computers, satellites, and cell phones, life continues here much as it always has. The culture was strong enough to withstand the Industrial Revolution and the dawning of the Computer Age and yet still flexible enough to adapt. Mercedes drive by burrows and women carry baskets of fruit on their shoulders past university students with backpacks slung across their backs. This is a timeless place: India.
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