They found each other on a train. One was from the West, the other was Indian, since it is easier to consider the West as the West than India as the East. The former was called Aman. The other's name will not be yet needed.
Easy conversations: Where are you going? Where do you come from? What do you do?
Aman explained that he had been working in an Ashram, a Yoga school, for the last five years.
-Oh! Are you a yoga teacher?
-Ha ha, not really. I am more like the guy that is fixing things and helping people getting by.
-You mean, the person that people only remember when something is broken and he is not there...
-Ha ha, something like this, yes. And I also prepare the breakfast sometimes.
Aman's smile was extremely sincere, like the one of an innocent kid that just try to get the approval of someone else. The other passenger looked through the window while the image of Aman's smile started to warm up his chest. He saw the characteristic poverty of an Indian overpopulated city, that poverty that smells at human excrement accumulated on the railways. If one is lucky enough can even witness the image of an old man or woman squatting on a railway track staring at the travelers that admire their private and unavoidable duty. Like Proust taught us, the nose is our best ally for fixing our memories. That distinct smell that mixes human and animal excrement with tons of garbage and trash that has been discomposing and accumulating months before the woman seated in front of our protagonists threw the used diaper of her baby through the window, or even months ago another yellow bucket trash was emptied over a wall in a mountain of rubbish by an anonymous man. It is the smell that emanates all the toxicity that goes into the huts and lungs of the people that live next to the railways. That is one of the reasons renowned architects stopped using propaganda posters and aluminum sheets as a walls. Those homes where the acoustic contamination can reach the level of pollution that invades the air. Another tale could be told about the daily life of one of this people, but let's come back to ours.
He stared back at Aman.
-So, what about your family?
-Well, my family is from the countryside, small village, you know. They are farmers. They plant seeds.
-They don't have so much money, I guess.
-Yes, in the villages is difficult. Sometimes, a lot of rain; sometimes, not rain. It is difficult, yes.
With the simplicity of those words the western passenger could imagine the precariousness where Aman had grown up. One or two taps in the house, drinkable water must have been boiled, months and season close to starvation because of a bad harvest, an incipient globalization that were making the prices lower and lower, long hours of working the fields since childhood, callused hands, blackened feet rarely shoed... Nevertheless, the union, the tightness of the bondage that were holding together those small cells, those groups of human beings, those families, was more than inspiring.
-Do you have brothers or sisters?
-Yes, I have one little sister. And I also had one old brother when I was small.
He looked at the top of his shoes for a second. The rhythm of his words slowed down.
-He went playing to the riverside with some friends. It got darker and it was monsoon season. I was only four years old, so I don't remember the details. Just the days afterwards, my mother, my family...
It helped to the other passenger to imagine the number of anonymous tragedies that were happening everyday in a country of one billion people, overcrowded public transportation and nonexistent traffic rules.
An spontaneous and ceremonial minute of silence happened magically, as it had been arranged. Meanwhile, it was possible to imagine the humility of the life in the Ashram where the salary was probably quite low, but enough to have some savings. Probably, food and accommodation was provided, being the food as tasty and appetizing as most of Indian food, and the accommodation something similar to a storage room where all the junk and paraphernalia that no one wanted was stored. All those objects that no one had used or would use again, but that were kept because someone might use them at some point. "Might's" and "may's" that made him live between garbage, like the people in the railways but with the difference of inhabiting a room built by brick walls with a proper bed and a proper mirror, and perhaps even an actual toilet. "Aman cannot complain, I guess", he thought.
-So I guess that the money you save it is mostly for your family...
He found the mix of sadness and acceptance that he had been looking for. With westernized curiosity and compassion, he delve deep into Aman's eyes, into Aman's chest and his brown coffee skin. That feelings that had made Aman leave his family in exchange of a better life for them. His eyes were still clear and his smile didn't disappear completely, even though Aman himself realized that he was renting his life in order of reaching some moments of happiness and security for his beloved ones.
-Yes, in the Ashram they give me food and I have a room. It is a bit messy now, but it is okay. I can save the money and send it to them. My parents are happy, my mother is happy, my father is happy. It is okay.
No one can assure Aman was grasping the deepness of his renunciation, the purity of his abnegation, the unconditional acceptance of his situation. However, he knew he had take the opportunity of escaping from a huge and intense misery that could have cost him tons of suffers and pains. Suffer and pain that Aman could have paid ultimately with his own health and some years of his life. What where the alternatives? Sleeping in a rickshaw when raining? Walking barefoot in the highway with a cart of fruits? Waiting all day for customers to sell some clothes in the market?
Anyhow, most human beings adapt to whatever.
-So, you like your life in the Ashram?
-Yes, it is good there. I can learn English, live in the big city, know people from everywhere...
And that was the summit of knowledge, curiosity. Surely, he was the kind-heart and smiling guy of the Ashram. That person that is always helping everyone and ensuring that everything is working. Even further, Aman was probably smiling to everyone everyday, like a personal commitment, all day in a good mood, cleaning the temple for their goods, in order to protect their family and beloveds; spending more time in the maintenance of the Ashram than in the salubriousness of his room, and trying to make the days of the people he encounters happier and brighter.
-Well, can I go to the bathroom first?