I sat in on a meeting today with a man who runs an NGO dedicated to reducing traffic fatalities. At the end of the meeting he showed a slide-show that made the red asphalt videos from drivers ed. look G-rated.
Yesterday, while stuck in traffic on my bus ride home from work. I watched a motionless body of a man on the sidewalk. He was sprawled out unnaturally with his head turned away from me. In Delhi I’ve seen plenty of heroine addicts passed out on the street. But this guy was different, he was dressed rather smart. Seemed odd that he was passed out in the middle of the sidewalk in a not-so-bad part of town. People just walked right by him. Some gave a quizzical gaze, but nobody stopped. Asking him if he needed help I guess didn’t occur to anyone.
Finally, the bus began moving. I kept my eye on him as we passed, and I got a quick glimpse of his lifeless face, eyes open, teeth showing….ghostly. If he wasn’t dead, he was close. I was as faulted as the rest. I watched, but I didn’t get off the bus to see if he needed help. I didn’t want to waste the eleven rupees I spent on the bus fare. I supposed it was someone else’s duty, but that someone always assumes the same thing. In retrospect, I’m very disappointed in myself (and the World). So he laid there, maybe dead. It wouldn’t have been the first corps I’ve seen India. I’ve seen a handful of them, mostly on the funeral ghats of Varanasi, but a few in other random places, like the beach. India is full of life, so naturally, it is also full of death.
The last two days funeral processions have passed by my workplace. I’ve gone out to watch as marching bands lead groups of pallbearers draped in flowers. The men danced and scattered petals on each other. This part of the procession is very New Orleans. Festive. Vibrant. Joyous. The women, somber, walk or ride behind in a bus. Weeping. Glaring.
So has been my mindset lately. Death won’t leave my mind, or my sight. In an escapist attempt at something completely different and American, I googled Frank Zappa, only to find myself watching an interview of the late genius from his death bed. He had a huge grey beard, and looked remarkably like a Sadhu. He had a real cosmic guru vibe. Even Zappa is throwing death in my face.
A moment ago, as I prayed for my life in a wild taxi ride to the airport, I saw a brutal chunk of roadkill. I couldn’t tell what it was. Not much of it was left. Then I asked myself, “Why is it wearing clothes?”