Indians keep surprising me with the wisdom they are able to share in one single sentence at moments that you least expect it. I was reminded today about a conversation I had one day in Rishikesh, about three years ago. It was in a chai shop along the street.
Around that time, in several places in India there had been a cloud burst, causing major landslides and floodings, killing more than 5,000 man and no idea how many animals. So in this chai shop in Rishikish I met a young man, Sudhi, who was in the mountains at that time. He was part of a group of eighteen people on a pilgrimage. Out of the eighteen only he and four others only made their way home…
Before the actual cloud burst it had been raining for three consecutive days and nights already. Sudhi was one of the guides and he had already decided not to take certain roads and avoid particular passes to the top of the mountain. Three children, aged three, seven and nine were part of the group. They were scared because of the heavy rains and couldn’t stop crying. Sudhi told me: “I gave them some chai to warm up and tapped them on the head, I told them not to worry, everything would be fine”. “I never knew i could have been so wrong.”
“It is a wonder that I am still alive, I could have easily been dead”. He described how rocks as big as houses came falling down right before him: “One moment there were three people walking in front of me, the other moment they were dead”. “People slipped into the river never to come out of there again” and “everything was black… black water, black rain”.
What I noticed during our conversation was that he wasn’t particularly emotional throughout sharing his story. He was not very sad, not depressed, but not hiding the fear that he had felt either.He even said twice or three times with a smile: “Yeah, it is another experience”. He is already planning his next trip up to the mountains.
I was actually sitting in this chai shop with an Indian friend. After Sudhi left the place I told my friend how surprised I was by the fact that Sudhi could smile and laugh while talking about his experiences. I said: “Laughing about it is probably his coping mechanism, right?”. My friend smiled at me and replied: “If you hold on to the bad, how will it ever pass’?,
This totally opened my eyes and left me wondering why we so naturally accept the given fact that beautiful moments and feelings pass, but tend to hold on – and drown even – in sorrow and sadness. So let’s relax our minds, our muscles, our hands. Open them up, experience a moment, feel it and let it pass to make space for something else to visit.