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Another Cultural Experience February 7, 2013

Posted by newsthatstaysnews in Uncategorized.
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What if I had studied political science, instead of development economics?  What if when I had graduated, I had gone to work for one NGO, then another?  What if instead of speeding up the delivery of patients’ medication histories to twenty thousand doctors by as much as a tenth of a second each time they’re viewed, I had worked in healthcare provision in Yemen and the Congo.  Would I be looking for a job now, my last CV entry terminated by an army’s decision to occupy territory?  Would I know what it felt like to live for so long in a society where all I could see of women was their ankles and their eyes, that I too began to feel stirred by them?   Would I buy almonds and water for the road?  Would I stay in the sort of hotel a tour group of middle-aged Argentinean women would pick, if they wanted to see the caves of Ellora?  Would I laugh when their tour guide chanted “Maradonna” and “Messi” at them, like a petty conjurer?  Would my girlfriend be standing in a bus stop, fending off kid hawkers?

“Cigar?”

“How old are you?”

“No English.

Cigarette?”

“No English.”

“Encyclopaedia of Indian Temple Architecture”, vol 1-2, 1986
by way of Takeo Kamiya

What would I think when I saw a temple carved 30 meters down into living rock?  Would I be impressed by what a century of human ambition had done to the side of a mountain, without dynamite?  Would I be impressed by what a millennium of wind and rain had done to statues, to stairs, to paint, to human ambition?

Would I smile when a group of men walked up to my girlfriend and I to take our pictures?  Would I keep smiling when it happened day after day?  Would I smile when a passing stranger paused, carefully arranged the scene through his camera lens, and took their picture, too?

grungy

Would I sit and listen, when the prohibiter of sandals called into the echoes of a thirteen hundred year-old buddhist temple?  When echoes called back to the monk and the nun who calmly sat before them?  When they called out to a whole hall of  exuberant tourists and brought them low and still? If so, would I sit beside them, or outside where I could munch on my almonds without the burden of atmosphere?  Would I loft an improvised celestial mechanics into the last waning hour of sunlight, reconstructing the angles of sunset from half-guessed latitudes, half-remembered trigonometry, and the patiently charted ascent of the single patch of sunlight that the cold stone balcony allowed? Would I prove beyond doubt that even in this season (twenty three degrees more!) the sun must still just barely manage to shine on the boddhisatva before expiring? Would such a proof redeem the imminent twilight, and the long, ill-lit and uncertain wait for some means to return to the city?

Would we pay for trinkets?  Cigarettes? Tour guides?

Biscuits?  Poor decisions?

Good ones?

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