Quarantine Journeys: India
Quarantine Journeys: India
"Within the air, within the crowd, a pilgrim came towards us and gave us some oranges and honey sweets. He didn't know anything about us, but he came towards us."
di Lia Beltrami
It wasn't my first time in India. I had memories from Kerala made of breathtaking beauty, palms that merged within the horizon, coats and rivers, forests and smiles. Kolkata has nothing to do with this. It is pure chaos. Cars constantly honking; flows of people that clash in streets, perennial traffic. We met at the airport: I was coming from Bangladesh, Andrea and Ferran from Italy, Nina Davuluri and her manager from the USA. An interesting melting pot. We lived a strong experience while we were staying with the Sisters of Providence, in the northern part of the city. There were three moments in our Indian journey that stand out.
PRAY. One morning, we woke up while it was dark and went to film the dawn by the Gange river. Sounds, songs, horns immersed within the great river. The first pilgrims were getting ready for the ritual wash; they scattered around flowers, surrounded by incense. They blessed our work and welcomed us in their deep spirituality, between the grey and the colours.
EAT. We took a local train to reach the border with Bangladesh, in order to film in the most hidden places and tell stories of skin colour and self-acceptance. Nina, who is of Indian origin, mingled within the crowd of personal stories, regenerating within the cycles. The wagons didn't have doors, the the windows didn't have glass. Within the air, within the crowd, a pilgrim came towards us and gave us some organise and honey sweets. He didn't know anything about us, but he came towards us. The taste of sharing made the food even better.
LOVE. In Kolkata, the nuns brought us by the bridges, where many families live. These are villages made up of mud and trash, living with a nauseous smell. The girls live in terror of being raped, brought away by monsters. Some of them, when they remained orphans, went to the nearby orphanage created by the nuns to live, study, build a futures. There, we really experienced Love. Each girl told us about their lives of pain, completely unimaginable for anyone, and their rebirth. The first year at the orphanage is dedicated to rediscovering their smile. The second to going back to dreaming, the third to committing to make their dreams come true. So some are studying to become engineers, others want to be become nuns, one girl wants to play rugby. We met one of the first girls that lived there: now she's an air stewardess and is about to be employed for a big airline. From live by the railways and by the bridges, towards infinite skies.
We really experienced Love.
Two surprises in Delhi
From Kolkata we went to Delhi, drowning in pollution, unbreathable air, grey everywhere. But even here we found two surprises.
Fr. Bento, che ha lasciato la sua Goa 40 anni fa, ha fondato scuole di alto profilo e centri per bambini di strada. La preparazione e la motivazione di tutti i “suoi” ragazzi va oltre, così come il messaggio di pace e convivenza in un’India in subbuglio.
The second surprise was the meeting with Mahatma Gandhi's family. His granddaughter Tara, who lived with him when he died, opened our our eyes on the path to harmony and love towards creation. The great-grandson, Vidur, created for us a deep interreligious prayer at the memorial. Besides him and Nina, Hindus, and us Christians, Sheikh Efendi from Germany was there as well. He is a Sufi brother who promotes the path to peace. We prayed for peace in india and in the world, and the sheikh prayed for peace in the hearts of all us us who were there.
Travelling always requires to let one's certainties go, and letting oneself be shaped by whatever comes ahead.