the life you make

There is a thought that has been running through my mind for the past two months: The life you make.  
The life you make.
One morning in Manali, I was heading out from my guest house to go drop my laundry. Two family members who work and live at the guest house were washing apples which they’d collected from the many apple trees in the yard. (There are many, many apple trees in Manali).  
About two hundred apples sat in a bin of clean water. One by one they were plucked from the bin, lathered with soap, rinsed off in a separate bucket and hand dried by towel. Then they were placed neatly into a carton, presumably to be transported to their place of export (which could have been anywhere from down the street to another city in India). I thought to myself, “man, this is what really makes the world go round." (Yes, I say "man" to myself in my thoughts.)


The life you make.

Young men walk the streets balancing 8 cups of tea on a tray which translates to, what? Forty minutes of tea preparation? They are likely bringing the tea to a nearby guest house for the host family or to a nearby shop for the staff. The tea is served in real cups, not plastic cups. At any given time there must be thousands of cups being hand-washed and hand-dried and hand-filled and re-filled. No pressing a button and checking Instagram while waiting for the K-cup of chai flavored tea to brew. Thousands of people preparing chai for thousands of people drinking chai, three times a day or more. This behind-the-scenes, incessant tea service culture is fascinating to me.
About a week later, I needed to take in a pair of pants. The waistline was tricky, because the pants had sort of a stylish flap, cut at an angle across the front.  It can be tough to tailor something asymmetrically. The next day, when I went to pick up the pants, the tailor wanted me to try them on to make sure they fit.  I could see that he had done the front flap perfectly -- even though he had to alter the shape of the flap, he had a design eye and had kept the look and feel of the style in tact -- so I told him I was sure they were perfect and I didn't need to try them on. But as I was paying him, I thought to myself, damn, this man just found a pretty ingenious solution for a tricky tailoring job, and he probably wants to see the fruits of his labor.  So I tried them on.  They fit like a glove. But even better than the fit was the look on the tailor's face.  The pride of a job well done. 

Arrangements are made by people, not computers.  Everyone knows everyone.  “I’ll call a guy.”  
And all it takes is a look up in the cities and villages here to see rooftops and balconies spangled with brightly-colored, hand-washed, line-drying laundry.

In Leh, a woman sat in a tent outside beading hundreds of bracelets. $1 bracelets for sale.

In Varanasi, where I currently am, a little boy is in the Ganga river, bathing his family's buffalo. Like, the entire buffalo is in the river, and the little boy is washing its head and ears with soap. Both the boy and the buffalo appear to be smiling.

The life you make.

No elevators. No dishwashers. No sensors. 
No microwaves. No screens everywhere.
No key card security systems. No swiping anything. 

TAP: "keep backing it up, Driver."  TOOOOT-TOOT-TOOT of the horn to mean, "I'm on your left." TOOT-TOOT-TOOOOT, TOOT-TOOT-TOOT-TOOOOT of the horn to mean, "we're barreling around this curve and if you don't get to one side, we'll probably hit you!" The pattern in the chaos.

while machinery is missing literally, it is very much present metaphorically.  If the definition of machinery is "several parts, each with a definite function and together performing a particular task," well then my friends the machinery by which this part of the world runs is one of the most impressive I've ever seen.  There are collectively understood rules and behaviors and signals and formulas.  There is a shared understanding of processes and values.  A kind of mechanical system that is in its own right solid and sound, even if it runs on people and not machines.
The life you make.

*(Sadly, intermediaries are becoming ever more present in farms further out in the villages.  In an effort to bring Nepal into the 'future,' massive companies like Monsanto are imposing standards in local villages that force the use of pesticides, genetically modified seeds and other unnatural methods of farming.  These companies are after a greater crop yield and a level of biodiversity that is not possible with local farmers' limited resources... but these demands require the creation of crops which are hybrid rather than organic, and are therefore not only less pure as crops but also more harmful to farmers’ health. There is a ton more to this, a conversation for another day.)

**The central motivation for my continued vegetarianism.  When I'm passing cows and chickens on the street all day, it's not just beef or chicken I'm eating for dinner... it's THAT cow and THAT chicken. 
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