Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I was on a plane flying to the US when I overheard a conversation.
"Are you heading home for the holidays?" said the lady.
"Oh yes, can't wait for that cranberry sauce," said the man.
"Yeah," she laughed, "back to reality."
"That's right, heh heh heh."
And their conversation went on to complain of some of the deprivations their stay in India had included, how they couldn't believe the way people lived, and what modern conveniences they were about to enjoy upon landing.
Wait a minute, I thought, cranberry sauce and people speaking American English, that's reality? This experience that people are living by the billions on the other side of the world is not real?
Life for the guy sleeping beneath the Ambedkar statue isn't reality? There are thousands of people homeless and living on the streets. And, yeah, they bother you knocking on the car window at the streetlights, begging for money. But they're not imaginary, and flying to the other side of the world doesn't mean they cease to exist.
I don't think the goatherd's little girl--or anyone she knows--has ever heard tell of a cranberry, but her reality is just as meaningful as my own.
She puts a little sweater on her baby goat and brings him to graze in the shadow of the Taj Mahal--if that's not other worldly! She may never go to school, but all she experiences is still real.
I'd have to say that it's we here in America who think life needs to include instant messaging and drive-throughs that need the reality check. Since when do we need these things as if it's the only way to live?
If you've seen it, it's only fair to at least acknowledge that it's really there, this other place where people live and work and love and die.
Because it is. Real.

And be careful what you say on an airplane. Because someone might overhear you and form unflattering opinions of you.

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