My thoughts have been everywhere lately. Like back in India, where I spent two months recently, just living and discovering the people and their lives in a neighborhood in Madurai. I was pulled by their words, their hands, and their eyes–into their homes with cups of tea and biscuits, and their questions about America, their stories of relationships, decisions, challenges and children and illness and what to buy next with their meager earnings. Life, that’s what it was; I was witnessing life, and their lives, and they invited me to become a part of them.
“Will you talk to him?” a young woman asked after telling me of her short-lived marriage.
“What should I do?” a mother asked, seeking advice about her daughter.
“I hope you find love.” Those are the words that still pierce my heart.
The young man astonished me, time after time. That I found him seemed to have been predestined. He started calling me “Mother.”
After meeting and talking several times, we realized we were reflecting one another. We each communicated what the other needed to hear, or see, or know–just at the right moment. It was as if a wiser self buried in me wriggled past the restraints I had wrapped around her and found a voice through him. A twist on an old perspective, an affirmation of something I had written, a nudge I needed in order to escape a stuck belief, and there she was–my reflection. Hello there. In return, I prodded and questioned him, uttered unexpected words, or smiled, or nodded, and that seemed to be what he needed, right then. He knew my words to be his.
We kept coming back for more–long talks over the telephone, a trip to his native village, a visit to the temple. We ate together–pillows of idli and coconut chutney and spicy podi and sweet pongal. I trusted him, this young/old soul, and he trusted me.
Then he said it. “I hope you find love.” His parting words to me.
My words to me.
And with those words, I had found love. Right there, looking at me, looking at him, there on the noisy street in Madurai.
Sometimes I imagine a sliver of my heart stuck to the cement wall next to us on that street. One of the streets where I became the life in India, and where my life became alive.
Read about visiting Karikalan’s native village at this link to my travel blog: Village Tales.