India – Breath

A large group of brown skinned women wearing the most vibrant colored sarees came out of the temple.  The midday sun made the thin fabric translucent.  I sat on a bench across the street, in the shade, wearing my light blue sun hat and sleeveless short cotton dress.  The shopkeeper told me it was okay to wear it here. Young western yoga teacher training students were crawling over this sacred city in various states of undress. The locals had grown accustomed to it. But this large group of women in traditional dress, some whose faces were completely covered, weren’t local. They were chaperoned by a couple of men in white.  This was a pilgrimage to the Ganges River and the Hindu temples.  

They looked at me from across the street.  My white skin must have shone as brightly to them as their sarees did to me.  They moved like breath, inhaling and expanding together, then exhaling and coming closer to one another, while simultaneously moving closer to me. Their collective shape began to curve into a horseshoe, with the ones on the outer edges coming nearer to me. I started to see their eyes.  I couldn’t understand their expressions that appeared blank.  I felt both nervous and excited and laughter spontaneously erupted from my belly.  That expression ignited the whole group of them to smile and giggle and show their amazingly large white teeth and deep wrinkles in their coffee colored skin.  

They kept moving closer, circling me.  We became like toddlers, curious and innocent. My whole body tingled with the newness of the experience.  A couple of the women reached out their hands to me.  I touched them in what felt like slow motion, and laughed, almost cried.

We knew each other, beyond language, place, race and culture.  We were mothers, little girls, menstruating sisters, and wise women.  We were Rumi’s poem:  in each other all along.

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