Bullock Cart: A Poem
I've had a fascination with India (and Sri Lanka / Ceylon) for over a decade. In 2004 I traveled to South India where I spent 21 days exploring the subcontinent (Orissa southward). There's something so mystical and ethereal about the place that it sticks in my mind as if I was there yesterday. I can still smell the incense and hear the wooden wheels creaking, the bells tinkling.
As soon as you set your foot down out of the plane you "feel" something different. Generally speaking, Indian culture, and Hindu culture, is very different from the West. Though India is the world's largest democracy, it seems like change comes very slowly not just in politics but in every other facet of life as well. There are cars and motorcycles, but there are also cycle rickshaws, bullock carts, and elephants.
Here I've attempted to recapture one of the most surreal initial moments upon arrival in India. I'd just gotten to the woman's house I was staying at, they'd given me huge brass jugs of heated water to bathe with, and afterward I went out on the balcony to watch the dusty foot traffic below. Suddenly this enormous cart with wooden wheels 8 feet high started rolling and creaking past. I was instantly transported back in time--to a place I knew, yet had never been before. I hope I've been able to capture the essence of what I felt and experienced in this poem.
Sweltering early morning haze
Patience saturates the breeze
Old music of dusty pathways
Echoes timeless through centuries
Huge wooden wheels creak their agéd bones
"Tink-chink" chime tiny brass bells
Horns painted red, green, blue, and gold
Sweep in slow, methodical swells
Patchouli smoke whirls through sunshine
Peacocks strut in old Ceylon
Saddhus tend the roadside shrine
As barefoot villagers look on
© Kate Parker / Faceless39
More than any other culture I can think of (Note: I'm not a history major), India has bounced back and retained its identity through hundreds of years of foreign rule. First the Moghuls and then the British Raj took over, and yet when you visit you
find a place peculiarly Indian. The people seem to have a knack for turning "outside" objects and forces into their very own. It's as if they assimilate everything into their own outlook. You see cars, but many are plastered with images of deities, are covered in garlands of flowers, are hanging braided Saddhu hair on the front grill for good luck, or have eyes painted on the front (to make sure the car can see).
One of the most fascinating aspects of the Indian subcontinent is that everything is just so old. There are hand-carved stone temples of an intricacy hard to imagine that have been sitting in the same spot for 5,000-10,000 years. Despite hundreds of years of foreign rule, everyone went on as normal doing what they've done since before time was even recorded. Walking along the dusty streets is, often, literally like taking a time machine back a few thousand years. It's difficult for me to describe the feelings that well up in a person when surrounded by this type of place, but more than anywhere else, the images stick and remain crystal clear forever.