July 2014: Kolkata in my mind, by Thibaud Leblanc.

One comes back often from a travel refreshed. Sometimes one comes back changed. They are travels who anchor in you. They interfere in your way of being, fill your vision of the world. Those change not only the look you put on your own life, here, below your eyes, around you, but also and mainly on the life of others here and there. To travel is always to change our life but it is sometimes to change the look we carry on the life of others. And to change the look we put on others it is to change their life.

First it is the discovery; the stranger in front of the stranger; to discover a full world who is not mine and to try to understand it, to tame it; to start to understand it but mainly to understand that it is itself which tames us. To discover a new culture it is finally not to observe it, to analyse it. It is to abandon to it, to leave our certainties, our habits and all what makes us, to let it act by itself. Then, when we abandon ourselves in the arms of this new culture, that we overstep, the discovery stops and the change takes place. It is like that, we will come back remodelled, at least a few weeks at most a few months to live in our former mould. From then onwards there is no end to the travel.

Calcutta was one of these travels for me.

The change that this travel brought was for me something which one can find anywhere else. That very change does not require to cross the world up to the most exotic countries, each one can find it where one wishes to, and I think where life takes him. For myself I found it in many longitudes from there. That change is the result of having learnt to look the reality in face.

And for me to look the reality face to face was to stand in front of that child leaning on an unstable wooden crutch and to not look at his amputated leg but to his smile.

To look at this reality, his reality, without lifting an eyebrow, shiver, or even to think of it. Just to give back his smile, sincerely, as warmly he offered to me. Because this has nothing of a test, it is an immense draft of happiness and; thinking backward of relief. The relief to at last understand better that uneasiness is only a controllable fear. That does not ask for any courage but understanding. To face his reality and to share it rather than to escape it with a smile or an uneasy glance. These two very short weeks were like this meeting. To discover a new reality, very far from mine and let it enter a little in mine. To share a little of my world, to discover a lot of another. To face “the“ Reality, that endless sum of life, of visions, of small worlds, which end to end help us to better seize the whole.

Like that while discovering and sharing always a little more, I started to think that all that which make us afraid, feel guilty, to worry daily is only an appearance. In fact poverty, violence, difference wherever they stand are they not only the visible and shocking face of the life of those who are far away from us? The most visible part hiding from our view and overall of our knowledge the main part of these lives. An envelop above their happiness, mainly. Their happiness first because I could discover below the poverty, the dirt and daily difficulties a joy and a thirst for life incredible. But not only their happiness, are like that also hidden their wealth, their culture, their sorrow, their view on things, their reality, in short to face the reality is to go and discover the one of all those people. To share their joys as well than their difficulties and like that to learn to help them better and to learn from them.

To truly discover who are these Indians, these handicapped, these foreigners, these strangers, these poor, that person in front of me or the one I will never come across, who shares the same world but not the same life.


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