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Shelley Seale
Passage to India: 2005

We've Arrived!

Saturday - 12 Mar 2005
Cuttack , Orissa - India

After a long, arduous, exhausting journey halfway around the world over the course of two days, we have finally arrived in Cuttack. India is everything I had imagined it would be - only more so. More colors, more noises, more smells, more people, more everything. It is an assault on all your senses at once. The wonderful and the abject co-exist here side by side, for the most part peacefully. There is what everyone, myself included, expects of India - poverty, ugliness, despair, filth. All of the things that caused some well-meaning people to question why I would ever want to come. But there is also much beauty - the part of India they have not considered and cannot see. Coming into the airport it is the first thing noticed, the beauty. Unbelievably lush trees and hillsides, stands of palms along lakes and rivers. From the air what you notice is the green, a richer shade than I think I've ever seen before; the water; and so much pure undeveloped land. It makes the cacophony of sights and sounds that you walk into, entering the city from the airport, that much more jarring. The throngs of people, the muddy dirt roads, the constant beep-beep of the horns. The deteriorating buildings, the raggedy street vendors, the ramshackle homes for which hut is too grandiose a term. The constant stream of buses, bicycles, rickshaws, cars, people and cows that fill the streets.

And here, even still, there is beauty in the midst of it. The warmth and shyness of the people, the colorful saris, the upscale shops next to the vendors, the swaying trees surrounding it all. I have learned something new already - that beauty is not its own thing which can be separated out, sanitized, and kept apart for its own sake. That is the American version of beauty, which becomes diluted in that very process. It cannot be fully seen and appreciated in that realm, so far removed is it from anything to compare it to, to cause it to fully stand out and be vibrant. The true measure of beauty lies in its imperfections; to see it, one must embrace it all. The American version of beauty by comparison seems remote, generic, anestetized; requiring an ever higher standard before it can be realized. The simple truth of it is overlooked - but not here. In India, beauty is in one raindrop, one golden sari, one flower in a tiny hand. I saw beauty in the way a perfectly tended dog was lovingly held in the lap of his well-dressed Indian mistress. I saw beauty in the brief glimpse of the interior of an ornate Hindu temple, candles glowing and people bowing their heads to the ground in prayer. Above all, this is India.

The Children

And in the children beauty seemed to come alive, almost making me believe it is a living entity I could capture in my hands.

A full 40 hours after leaving Austin, our final plane touches down in Bubaneswar, the capital of Orissa. Eleven dazed and shell-shocked Americans emerge and walk across the tarmac to the small terminal. I am beyond tired, but excited and a bit apprehensive to finally be here after two days of grueling travel across three continents. When the group of us come through the doors, Caroline is immediately spotted by "Papa" - Domadoor Sahoo, the director of the orphanage. Alongside him are his wife, two women who work at the orphanage, and three of the children. They all break into huge smiles, waving excitedly and calling "Sister Caroline!" Caroline runs to greet and hug them as we follow behind, our energy amazingly replenished. The three little girls are shy at first, but can't take their eyes off us or the grins from their faces. As we show our passports and enter the gate, one by one, the girls hand us each a bouquet of flowers, kiss their fingers and bend down to touch our feet, taking a blessing from us.

They have been waiting for us intensely and are overjoyed that we are here at last.

Into Cuttack-Sat. March 12
  Shelley Seale - Bio and Journals
  Passage to India: 2005 - Intro Average Rating of 19 Viewers
Chapters of Passage to India: 2005
  We've Arrived!
  Into Cuttack-Sat. March 12
  Sunday, March 13
  Monday - March 14
  Tuesday, March 15
  Wednesday, March 16
  Thursday, March 17
  Friday, March 18
  Poem - Who am I?
  Taj Mahal

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