U.S. citizens are strongly urged to avoid political demonstrations

as these can quickly turn violent.”—US Department of State

 “In India, they turn implacable.” – Wandering Woman

(an oldie I found on my computer)

After interviewing microcredit clients in Wardhi, India, my driver headed home to Nagpur, the navel of India. As I was mulling over the 11-hour snow-induced traffic jam in Wisconsin, I had another smug attack. After 20 Chicagowinters, I was not in the snow. I was in India. Sweating.   As I was pouring bottled water over my head, I noticed our SUV was stalled waiting for the million agricultural-walla march over the bridge we needed to cross. Two miles of ragged farmers trudged past. Finally, we turned onto the bridge. I was thrilled to be at the tail end of a political demonstration protesting policies that are giving agricultural workers such punishing lives. I felt righteous being a part of the protest as I recalled agricultural horrors such as bonded slaves, child labor, starving from harvest to harvest, bare feet in cobra-infested fields. So righteous that it took a moment to realize that the road was silent. Had we all died? It is the law that to pass a vehicle, the passer must honk to warn the passee. And, since everyone must always get there first, every road is honkier than a bar full of Mississippi  rednecks.

Lanes are merely suggestions, but I finally figured out that the entire bridge was blocked by trucks, busses, rickshaws, cows, goats, carts, bikes, scooters, etc. headed north along with us – while facing us, the entire bridge was blocked by a similar entourage headed south. No one was shouting. No horns were blaring. Every face had that implacable Indian expression that means: I am not moving. Even the camel beside our car looked implacable despite its copious drooling. The water buffalo with blue horns facing us looked merely bored.

After an hour or so of being broiled in one spot, two police arrived on foot, which was the only way across the bridge. One by one, they coaxed vehicles and animals to turn around, getting an argument from each driver. Gradually, they created a lane going north, a lane going south, and chaos in the middle. The driver lurched our SUV to one side. We were on our way, honking victoriously and yielding only to a bus filled with implacable passengers hanging out the windows.

Next we visited Gandhi’s ashram, which could have been a place for quiet contemplation if it weren’t for students trooping intelligently over the grounds and through the huts. I am sure they know more about Gandhi than I do.  One thing I learned is that Gandhi instructed everything to be built by local people using local materials. Riding home, still dazed by the heat, I applied Gandhi’s philosophy to the Chicago suburb where I teach. Naughty students could be released from detention, bussed to the mall, and smash four cars for every family. They could construct waterproof metal shelters with automatic windows powered by generators appropriated from Home Depot.

Finally, we passed the obelisk in Nagpur marking the navel of India. “It’s an ‘outie.’” I scrawled in my notebook.

Sunstroke.  In February.


Tags: , ,

One Response to “IMPLACABLE”

  1. PAT BRYANT Says:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: