First of all, I know a lot of people got in touch to find out about us; many heartfelt thanks. We are safe and sound, and in a town about 100 miles away from Mumbai.
Wendy and I spent 30 minutes waiting on a Mumbai train platform on Wednesday morning, about 15 hours before the attacks began. We'd been on an overnight train from Hubli in the South, and were waiting for a train to take us to Aurangabad. When we finally boarded, we were sandwiched in between two devout elderly Muslim couples who were on a pilgrimage to a special mosque housing the tomb of a medieval saint. Though only one of the men spoke english well enough, the whole group could not have been more friendly and open to us. They insisted on sharing their food with us, and at each stop they bought snacks through the windows from the trackside vendors for us to try (I had been sick the entire night before, but they were being so nice about it, I felt obliged to try what they offered). They were very eager to know about our lives, families, travels, and to tell us about theirs. At one point towards the end, Hakim (the english speaker) stood up and announced "Now ladies all in one seat, gentlemen all in other seat". And off we went. When we finally arrived, they made sure we negotiated the station chaos and were on our way safely. For a little while, it was almost like having 2 new sets of aunts and uncles taking care of us.
Today, we were at a bank cashing travelers checks. The only branch in town that could do this was apparently in the predominately muslim section of town; most of the men where dressed completely in white along with a knit skullcap, and nearly all of the women were in the burkha, the head-to-toe black garment worn by strictly observant muslim women, revealing only their eyes. As we were waiting for the official to finish our transaction, a woman in a burkha came up to us and told us how happy she was to see us there, how she has a brother living in Chicago, and how terribly sorry she was about the Mumbai attacks (keeping in mind that more than 10 times as many Indians died as foreigners).
These were both small things, and there certainly are crazy people in the world. Nevertheless, it was good to have a few direct reminders that, for the vast majority of its practitioners, Islam speaks the language of love and kindness.
Labels: India, Travel