Like thread from a silk cocoon
If you happened to sit in on a GCIL information session, you might have heard Julian say something to the effect of, "In India, things won't always go to plan." For better or worse, he's not wrong.
Today was one such day where most things did not go as planned. We left at 7 am for a trip to a rural village that ended up having a few more stops, backtracks, and side roads than expected.
On our way down the bustling highway that connects Bangalore with Mysore, we stopped at one of the largest markets for silk work cocoons in Asia. Inside were bins of caterpillars, settled into their wrappings, unaware these finely threaded homes would one day instead be draped around the shoulders of some mannequin, many miles from the town of Ramangara. Here a buyer took notice of us, something that is not uncommon, and was both gracious and proud enough to invite us to see his home, where threads are spun from these cocoons. This marked one of multiple changes from our set plan.
I'm convinced that the spinning of silk from cocoons occurs in part by magic. A woman stood at a small basin of hot water full of cocoons, beneath a large network of spools, that were spinning so quickly the threads on them seemed unending. She tossed new cocoons under the spools and the threads joined the spools as if they were jumping off the cocoons themselves. But magic comes at a price.
She had been at this job for 30 years, and it was clear both in her skill and her sacrifices. She showed her hand to us, her palm was raw and cracked, in places the pigment seemed to have been burned away. Thirty years of tossing cocoons in hot water had, in her words, "cooked" her hands. They would heal if she were to quit, but why would she? This job allowed her to pay rent. Her hands held her financial freedom, and softness is of little economic value.
The next pleasant surprise occurred at a rural village, which also happens to be a bird sanctuary. The village is a stopping point for spotted pelicans and painted storks. Our intended visit was thrown off by a meeting of government officials, so instead we all went to a stranger's house and watched TV. We had met a man in charge of the local efforts to rehabilitate a pelican, which are considered to be daughters of the village. After showing us the beautiful and battered bird, he had invited us to the home of his daughter to see the silk worms his brother raised. And suddenly surprise number 2 was also surprise number 3.
The final twist the day had in store was less pleasant. We were on the buses heading to our hotel for the night, when one phone call and 8 WhatsApp messages made things take a turn. The other bus had been in an accident. A drunk truck driver had made a sudden stop, and in order to avoid a full collision the bus driver swerved, and swiped the truck on the side instead. Everyone was fine; the only causality was a side mirror, but a reminder hangs in the air like a thread from a silk cocoon. In India, things won't always work out the way you hope they will.