By Evan Pausic
I traveled to Agora with a story in heart and mind set out on an oath of discovery of places. Last week, I sat with an old man, fathers, grandfathers, farmers, brothers, young women, wives, students, young kids, mothers, and even a baby. Suman was my lingual and, more importantly, my emotional bridge into the language of his people. When I look at the people of Agora, they look a lot like love to me. Let me lay out a scene. It was the end of the day, sun slowly passing under Himalayan snowcaps, young men bringing up the mules, Mrs. Smiley out watching the ridge for our group of hikers, an old man sitting cross-legged across from me with a veil of smoke floating overhead, his trusty hookah at his side. To my surprise, he told me a story about leaving home, about his time in the military on the Tibetan border. Sitting on the plateaus for weeks at a time, he realized maxims about nature and life. He felt the vastness of the natural world and the awe that comes with consciously existing in it. He views what you or I call nature as God, sees the villagers as living in harmony with God.
In the same moment I came to this conclusion, he moved forward with passion written on his face. He looked me in the eyes and said, “You can view the soil as dirt, or you can see the soil as the mother of life. It’s a choice; it’s a choice we all make.”
Many of the interviews connected to place, and this led to family. Listening to Suman’s family was impactful. Sitting with Ms. Showalter, Mrs. Smiley, and Ms. Sinnenberg and listening to Suman’s mother speak, her words translated by her son for us—this was truly heartwarming. It was a meeting of the mothers. It was a privilege and a joy.
Leaving Agora the same day we got to hear Suman’s ma-ji proved extraordinarily difficult. In the last interview I did, a kid told me, “Agora is the best place in the world.” I walked away with tears in my eyes, but never in my life have I been so happy to feel so sad.
Balbir waited on the road head to say goodbye. There is my greatest regret; I wish I had looked this loving man in the eyes and cried, displayed this just, this full sadness to a person I deeply respect.
Home is not a place but a creation of the mind. In leaving home, I went home. Now I have become at home in my mind. I know Agora is there inside me; it lives in my soul; it has taken residence within. A place can truly do this, become a part of an individual’s soul. I now feel ready to smile, to share joy, because Agora has awakened parts of me that long slept. I believe I have followed the current of life itself. With my life, I really feel like I am working on something wonderful.