We came upon a group of a dozen men and a similar number of women and children gathered near the hut where I’d lived and worked for almost two years. And although I’d left the zhopadpatti, convinced that I could never live there again, it always gave me a thrill of pleasure to see the humble little hut, and stand near it. The few foreigners I’d taken to the slum—and even the Indians, such as Kavita Singh and Vikram, who’d visited me there—had been horrified by the place and aghast to think that I’d chosen to stay there so long. They couldn’t understand that every time I entered the slum I felt the urge to let go and surrender to a simpler, poorer life that was yet richer in respect, and love, and a vicinal connectedness to the surrounding sea of human hearts. They couldn’t understand what I meant when I talked about the purity of the slum: they’d been there, and seen the wretchedness and filth for themselves. They saw no purity. But they hadn’t lived in those miraculous acres, and they hadn’t learned that to survive in such a writhe of hope and sorrow the people had to be scrupulously and heartbreakingly honest. That was the source of their purity: above all things, they were true to themselves.

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A quote saved on Nov. 5, 2015.


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