Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Final Glimpse at the City of Joy

You should see the city tonight.

Durga puja is in full swing (it is a Hindu religious festival celebrating the goddess Durga which is embraced by everyone as a national holiday. It is kind of like how Christmas is a Christian celebration that results in a holiday for everyone). The festivities put our celebrations of Christmas to shame. From my rooftop perspective the streets appear as one streaming river of people – I am convinced that if I were to stand still amongst the crowd that I would be carried along with them.

There is music filling every corridor of the city. The sounds of celebration can be heard echoing off the buildings until the early hours of the morning. Pandels, massive temporary shrines made from bamboo and fabric designed to look like real buildings, have been squeezed into every available space, even spanning over roads. Strings of lights have been draped from roof top to roof top and fluorescent tube lights have been hung in trees. People are laughing in the company of their friends and family as they walk from pandal to pandal. The streets look like runways in a fashion show as most people sport their new clothes, the traditional gift of this particular puja. Kolkata is wrapped in all her finery.

When I first arrived in Kolkata, three months seemed like such a long time – a quarter of a year to be exact. Yet, here I am three months later and I marvel at how quickly time has passed by. In just a few hours, in the early morning hours of October 1 to be exact, I will board a plane to begin the first leg of my journey home.

In my heart I know that God is doing something wonderful in Kolkata amongst its millions of Hindu and Muslim believers.

I have been thinking a lot about the love of God lately. It is just so beyond me. Think about it - His love is so great that even forever is not enough to thank Him for it. More than that, love is not something that God does or has, but rather God is love – it is who He is. In my own life, if I do not love, then it means that I do not really know God.

What does God see when He sees these masses of people filling the streets of Kolkata? And how is what I see different from His perspective? I have no doubt that if everyone could have but a taste of God’s love that they would never go elsewhere again.
For God so loved the world…

Tonight I leave Kolkata in the midst of its singing and its dancing and its lights. Tonight I realize that the heart of this city is not a place or a district, rather it is the people who know move through its arteries. Tonight I marvel at the connection between my heart, Kolkata’s heart, and the heart of God.

As I go, Kolkata comes with me in my heart, my thoughts and my prayers.