Morning train to Delhi
(Posted from the train)
It’s 5:50 AM on Monday and we’re sitting on the train in Agra, waiting to depart for New Delhi.
Yesterday was amazing; we got to visit the Taj Mahal. I was overjoyed to see it. It’s one of those almost mythical places that you think, “it would be cool to see one day but I probably never will,” and then I was there.
It was nothing of a disappointment, only prettier and more exquisite than I had thought. And we had a beautiful day for it; a cloudless crisp day.
Our train is 90 percent empty, at least in our “air conditioned” coach. I guess that’s what they call first class. I would compare it to one of the old trains we used to ride in Mexico. Most of the coaches are “non-air conditioned” and they are fuller.
Our hotel in Agra was superb. We got it for free with credit card points. The grounds and rooms were large and immaculate, marble everywhere. We played cricket last evening on the lawn and took pictures of a monkey.
The streets outside were bedlam but it was calm inside.
We ordered a pizza last night from Pizza Hut, just to keep my cholesterol up.
We’ve left the station now and they rhythm of the tracks has begun.
A few hours later now, it’s light enough to see well. The train runs right through intense housing areas. We can see people stretching and blinking in the sun, but there are so many people they hardly have room to turn around. One billion people in this country and they’ve all decided to live alongside the train tracks.
I wonder if tempers don’t flair easily, living so much together, with so few comforts. Bathroom facilities are obviously in short supply, improvisation is required.
It’s easy to be moved to compassion when the pain is so obvious and the degradation to the human spirit so flagrant. Only a heart of stone would be unmoved by the sight of children playing and laughing beside open dark water.
It reminded me of White Marsh Mall in northern Baltimore, bastion of suburbia, just like a thousand other U.S. malls. Don’t you see how they’re the same? Broken people. The only difference is camouflage. Camouflage is the ability to disguise what you really look like, to blend in visually with your surroundings. White Marsh Mall’s camo is cars and money and the sweet smell of “success.” But if you train your eyes to see beyond the camo, you can see the broken pieces of shattered and disillusioned spirits. Too-full bellies; too-little hope.
Thad went through a stage when he was about 8 where he wore camo a lot. When he put it on we’d pretend like he’d disappeared and we’d ask each other, “have you seen Thaddeus?” And he’d get a bemused grin, wanting to believe he had disappeared.
Some of our friends and neighbors are wearing camo. Maybe we’ve been humoring them too long; tacitly agreeing with them that we can’t see their true condition – starved for healing and meaning, their souls splashing in black water. Only a heart of stone…
The train to Delhi, the drive to the mall; same thing once you see beyond the camo. I don’t mean to belittle the tragedy of human suffering, but neither do I accept the arrogant conclusion that our inherited wealth has somehow healed us. Only Jesus can do that.
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