By Sam Christie
As steam rose from the reaction of hand-flattened bread to a clay oven in an early morning breakfast, my first dose of India grabbed me by the mind and heart. As I began my list of firsts, I justified every ounce of excitement for what was to come by the shear reward of deviating from a routine. Soon finding myself surrounded by monkeys overlooking the holy river Ma Ganga, I wondered if they ever thought of their own existence or just of the food they scavenged. If all things live and all things die, do all things think, and do all things cry? Flora and fauna alike, our differences bring us closer together for needs of what we don’t have. You see:
We and the trees are one and the same
Some are unknown and some have a name
Some stay in groups and some stay alone
Some live life wild and others at home
They both live and die and breath and they try
To grow taller and better with no limit but sky
Of trees and of men, those cut down too soon
For sources of profit, and thought etched from gloom
We are connected by roots, the ancient ones stronger
With unity needed for the sort to live longer
Different colors and shapes and uses and beauty
Casting a shadow of calm, freely unto thee
There be little different but branches and eyes
Let the code of existence be live and let die.
Two miles past the end of the road, Agora, our mountainous home, almost entirely sustained by its own land and laborers, diverged its own colors from the slope of the peaks that dwarf all below, children ran from home to school with much more enthusiasm than I am used to. Men and women carry equal loads to build upon their neighbors homes.
This land of birds, mountains, stream, and soul, helped us reground ourselves from our individualistic lifestyle. We think largely of ourselves and what matters now, but never our family, friends or let alone cows.
The people of Agora, “simple” we called them, not because of their methods, because, believe me, none of us are as skilled as they, but because they are comprehensible. They live for their family and for their community in nature. That is it, nothing more. They found happiness before we realized we lost it, wrapped up in world of fake words and items hoping to hook you on the temporary. Now, I’m not saying our society is bad, nor am I saying Agora is perfect. What I am saying is that it’s time to open our eyes and find meaning in what we do.
Flying into the Andamans, the plane became a world amongst a vast canvas of life’s most precious commodity, flat sparkling water beyond comprehension leading up to the white sand beaches and mangroves. We settled into our cottages and made our way into the jungle with a team of passionate researchers.
On this jungle trail, as I lay my eyes on the soil of a beautiful forest, I challenged myself in a physical and spiritual way to walk with my head up. Instead of worrying where I was going, I needed to enjoy how I was getting there. It was no sooner as I lifted my head that I saw how high the trees brushed the sky and the vines held close to the branches of flora. It was on that trail I learned to stop and smell the roses and it was there on that trail that I learned to embrace the negatives as a necessary element of being positive. I will gladly embrace tripping on a branch if it means I find something amazing whilst tripping on said branch.
It’s hard to fit everything that I have learned and experienced into this post, but when you boil down all of the beauty of a place like India and with friends like those we brought and met here, the first thing that pops into my head is connection. The connections I have made with these islands and mountains to myself and, most importantly, the connections I have made with people, each one of them just as if not more important than I, all with their personal experiences, loves and fears. I think tirelessly over the people I will never see again and how much I want a connection to last. While periods of your life go by and you say farewell time and time again, I am happy that we converge with those who proved to be our inseparable friends and equals at the end of the road.