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A Slice of Karma

By , Grand Haven, MI
As each car drove over the ruggedly paved road, clouds of dust rose creating a haze over the afternoon of the Mysore sun. The South Indian city of Mysore had an aroma of an exotic land. A rich oily smell wafted past my nose. I immediately realized they were frying puri , a puffy and greasy pastry. The people inside the crudely constructed stall were frying the puri on the side of the road, as if they wanted everyone to know that inside that little stall, magic was happening. Vendors were hawking their wares. Some were sheltered by a stall. Others walked. But everything they sold was so magical. The spice hawkers goods had their unique smell. Small shops were clustered along the street. Many of the store signs were a mystery to me because they were in “Kannada”, the local language. This site amazed me as my mom, my brother, my grandparents, and the taxi driver Ram Chandra drove by. The car we were riding in was a sky blue car that my grandparents owned. In the back seat, my brother and my grandma were sitting on either side while I was sitting on my moms lap in the middle (I was 6 at the time so it worked out perfectly).

Every 3 years, my family takes a trip to India to visit family and friends, this being my first. Our car pulled into the parking lot of a bank. There my mom, accompanied by my grandma walked into the bank. A man who looked like he could snap me in half and armed with a gun guarded the bank. My grandpa, my brother, Ram Chandra, and I were left sitting in the stuffy car. Ram Chandra was in his mid 40’s and I could tell that he had seen a lot of India being a taxi driver. Half of his head was grey hair and he had a magnificent mustache. He wore a plaid shirt and some worn jeans. A rich Indian accent blanketed his words. My grandparents had usually hired him for their traveling needs and I could see why. No one could possibly be more reliable than him.
(For the convenience of the reader, I have translated the dialogue below into English).
While my grandpa and brother were talking to each other, Ram Chandra decided to chat with me
“What grade are you in”, casually asked Ram Chandra.

“I’m going into kindergarten”, came my reply.

“Do you like school?”

“…….. Yeah… I guess so.”

“Not much, huh?”

“No not really,”

Our conversation concluded when a man approached our car. He was garbed in a blue turban and a tattered plaid shirt.

“Alms for a poor man?” he begged.

“ Sorry, I have no money”, replied my grandpa, who was still waiting for my mom to withdraw some money from the bank. At these words, I felt numb with confusion. Why doesn’t he have money? Doesn’t he have a job? Doesn’t the government

As the man hobbled away, I noticed he had a limp. When he went farther into the parking lot, I saw that he had only a stump of his left leg and he had been using a crutch to steady himself. Soon he was gone, lost amidst the sea of traffic.

For a long time, I thought that everyone had money, and that the government always gave to whoever needed it most. But being in America, my vision was only limited to that horizon. I often reminisce back to that age and think about how ignorant I was. But then, weren’t we all at that age?
“Grandpa, why doesn’t that man have a fake (prosthetic) leg?” I asked.

“ He probably doesn’t have enough money to feed himself, let alone get a prosthetic leg”.

That evening I wasn’t very hungry. Never had I seen the world in such a pessimistic way as I had that day. Never had the sky looked so bleak. Never had I realized how fortunate I was.

If people have to live their lives this way every day, why doesn’t anyone do anything about it? Why do people shrug it off their shoulders like water off an umbrella? I then had a sudden thought. It was only a big problem if you were in poverty.

I am now 12 and I have different views of the world. I’m not saying poverty and suffering are golden, I’m just saying that they exist naturally just like wind and rain. But humans shouldn’t just shrug it off. What really makes us human is whether we try to help or not. Sorrows of life, like poverty, do have an impact on our opinions of the world. It motivates us have a desire to make the world a better place. If the whole world were just puppies and sunshine, why would anyone ever care about improving their lot? How would we react when disaster struck? Would we stick together through tragedies?

If you have never had a taste of sadness in your life, if you’ve never tasted that one rotten peach, then even riches beyond your wildest dreams all as good as dust. If you have been shielded from misery and woe all your life, I must ask you a question. What does joy feel like? If you have never felt sad, does joy feel as joyful or love as lovely?

I discovered on that day that sorrow and woe are powerful motives to the human spirit to strive toward a better world and without its enriching feelings of empathy life would be quite an incomplete journey.


-“Life is difficult. There is suffering”-



-The Buddha (c.563-c.483 BC)





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Victor said...
Apr. 18, 2010 at 8:54 am
How true! It is appalling how much poverty in this world goes unnoticed!
 
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