A Passage Through India
A familiar sea of humans, cows, and three-wheeled auto-rickshaws… with some new features: People of all stripes gathering around giant outdoor projection screens to cheer every turn of the Indian athletes in the Commonwealth Games… Brand new Delhi Metro terminals, still not-quite-finished and already falling apart, teeming with hurried passengers, mostly unfazed as twelve more press themselves into the already-packed subway car… iPhone ringtones fill the air as police, no doubt instructed to put a new face on Delhi’s streets for the Games, remove beggars from their usual spots… Young women in uniform holding rifles very nearly their height peoplewatch like ghosts in the swarms of shoppers… A slice of New Delhi in 2010.
Tomorrow, the long, dusty road to Himachal Pradesh, a crumbling wagon trail of a thoroughfare with (very) slowly elongating patches of smooth black tarmac, always under construction (inconvenience regretted). It’s there that i’ll begin to feel strangely at home again, as the concrete monstrosities (“biggest and longest mall north of Delhi,” boasts one sign) gradually give way to what remains of the rustic beauty of the villages.
The purpose of the journey? A tiny effort to preserve a speck of that beauty in the face of all this “development,” and a humble aspiration to inspire and train interested villagers and visiting global citizens to do the same. Our budding sustainability project in the Himalayan foothills will take a big little step in the coming weeks: the stone foundations of our new baby, the Dharmalaya Institute, spent the last four months settling and curing in the monsoon rains, and soon we’ll start raising her lovely mud walls…