Monday, March 7, 2011
Bed, Bath and Beyond???
My last day in India, roaming around Mumbai. I was hanging out in Bandara, a lively hip neighborhood when I spotted these two men, sleeping on the street. Beside them a handcart and in it some parcel, wrapped in a Bed, Bath and Beyond bag. For me this image said it all - Third World meets First World, rich and poor, disenfranchised and corporate, pre-industrial, post-industrial. All of these contradictions made up India for me. Somehow it made sense that at rush hour oxen freed of their yokes stroll home on the national highway, that in the middle of a dirt hovel an electric sewing machine, and this.
Bed, Bath and Beyond actually holds a funny place in my heart. When my father died, the funeral home FedExed his ashes to me. However, I'd forgotten they were coming and I was expecting another delivery. The chiropractor next door called me personally about my delivery. He said, "I have something for you."
"Is it from Bed, Bath, and Beyond," I asked him.
He hesitated. "Well...it's from Beyond."
This anecdote has nothing to do with this picture except it resonates in my memory and gave this moment a special poignancy. Also I had learned via my friend, Naresh, who hosted me in Mumbia, that a famous Bollywood star who lived around the corner from him in Mumbia had driven up on to a sidewalk in the early hours one morning and ran over four bakery workers who were getting some shut-eye in the street. I walked by the home of that Bollywood star who is out on bail, pending trial, which may never happen, and saw dozens of people, waiting on the street by the Arabian Sea, hoping for a glimpse of their handsome celebrity.
Somehow my father and the runover bakery workers by the Bollywood star and these two men asleep right here in broad daylight, it made me feel how fragile and vulnerable we all are. And how life is filled with contradictions.