There were people. And then there were more people, and then more following them. At a Hindu temple to Ganesh today, we experienced a close intimacy with the people waiting in line with us that seems to be something distinctly Indian. Like the horns on the roads of Mumbai, things that people in America would consider hostile are encouraged. To get in, you have to push. But the man in front of you will never turn around and yell "Stop pushing me!" Rather, everyone pushes, everyone gets pushed, and everyone accepts things the way they are. Or so it would seem.
At the same time, we also experienced something fascinating at the Haji Ali shrine. As we stood on the steps of the holy site taking a picture, a number of bystanders took pictures of us on their mobile phones. To them, we seemed to be as interesting as their lives are to us. I suppose a big part of it was how out of place we looked with cameras, bags, and a clear sense of amazement.
What we saw today was not Dharavi nor was it a non-profit that was working to fix education in India. Rather, we experienced an India that is common. At both the shrine and temple, we removed out shoes, along with all other visitors. And in doing so, we, and all others, were equals. For a moment, the business tycoon who drives to Haji Ali in a Mercedes and the beggar are one and the same: devotees.
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