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October 6, 2008 / calebdresser

Love by the river of sadness

Its a long time since I cried, but there were tears in my eyes last night. So funny what brings these things on. I took in three days of misery and sorrow with dry eyes and a steady hand, yet a stupid Bollywood song on the night bus to Patna left me sobbing into my grimy backpack. The garroulous construction boss beside me had the good sense to be asleep, so I had privacy in which to watch the rice fields slide by, doubly blurred by tears and late-evening mist.

What fluttered through my mind? Not the man who snatched the packet of hi-cal biscuits from a child’s hand at the distribution point and ran off stuffing them in his mouth. Not the little boy who lifted up his ragged skirt to show a scrotum that was rotting off his body in a cloud of flies. Not the lines of Oxfam tarps strung out along the roads, so many that the eyes glaze over and the mind loses focus after the first twenty minutes.

It was a little girl that I thought of, a little girl who came to the medical hut to do nothing more than hold her baby brother in her arms and smile and smile and smile.  It was Jitu and Shaitan, taking the time to make sure I got on my bus even as they gathered up their mosquito nets and headed back into the gathering dusk of the flood zone. It was the broad, moustached grin I got from the ragged man providing free ferry service to all in his old boat. It was the genuine warmth in the smile of a woman who had given up her professorship to work for others and asked nothing, not even recognition. It was the nameless farmer who turned back to guide me through the thigh-deep waters of his drowned village.

It was goodness for which I cried. Pain and chaos and suffering and greed happen and we must deal with them as facts of life – but how are people so good? What moves them to it, in the middle of their own troubles and cares and desires? I cried at the impossible wonder of human strength and generosity, as an artist might cry at the beauty of his teacher’s masterpiece. I am not a religious man, but I believe in miracles. I have seen the greatest that there is: love without question, beyond pain, beyond faith, beyond reason.



Leave a Comment
  1. Amy / Oct 7 2008 4:40 am

    Your writing is making me cry…
    Glad your last few days there are filled with happiness despite the surroundings.

  2. Winslow / Oct 7 2008 4:26 pm

    It’ll be really good to see you the day after tomorrow.

  3. Margaret / Oct 8 2008 1:11 pm

    Please tell the Mittals how deeply grateful we are for all their care of you.
    So much, so much, for you to have us understand of your life.
    So wonderful to see you very soon.

  4. Sara Z. / Jun 10 2011 6:11 am

    Indeed, it is amazing how love triumphs in such circumstances–bearing light amid the darkness.

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