Several years ago I spent two months in Northern India, from one end in Jaisalmer near the Pakistani border, all the way to West Bengal and Kolkata in the east. Needless to say it was a mind bending trip, even for someone like myself quite already immersed in the culture. I didn’t intend to take any video, but several times was so captivated by things in front of me that I pulled out the Droid phone I was carrying and recorded the moving action.
The long scene represented by this video clip caught my eye as our train slowly and deliberately pulled into the Old Delhi Train Station. It’s not the greatest quality, but that’s not the point. Neither was the subject matter. What is remarkable, and admirable, is that under very difficult situations, people have squatted along the railway, building simple houses and communities in spite of the poor location.
My phone held up against the dirty window captured a sliding montage of life as we passed by. If you look carefully, almost every conceiveable human activity went on in front of us. There is no privacy, everything is lived out in the open.
I paired the video clip with a sound clip we took in Shantinekitan, West Bengal, the home of Rabindranath Tagore, India’s poet and the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. The music is a Baul singer, a wandering mystic minstrel whose tradition is native to Bengal and Bangladesh.
I slowed the clip down somewhat so that the people, their activities, and their homes would be recognizable. That made it slightly jerky, but I felt it was a good compromise.
In any event, for those of us who are blessed to live in comfort, this is a stark reminder that a significant percentage of humans do not have the same opportunities.