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A Momentary Meeting of Cultures

You're bumping along a dusty Indian road in an unassuming little car, trying to explain to your driver some inexact destination. The road narrows and becomes more congested. And something tells you just to sit back. The journey is the thing. It is then that the car nudges up against a wave of humanity, animals, carts, and colorful paraphernalia. You're in the heart of a factory district. Your modest vehicle, stalled by this jumble of bodies, suddenly takes on stately carriage proportions. You become a foreign dignitary, enclosed by metal and glass; an unwitting celebrity who now has to perform. But the encircling audience makes few demands. You need only to wave a hand and smile to sustain their bounding interest. Delighted at this unexpected entertainment, more and more locals pack around the car and stare at you - your every movement a new act in a minutely observed show. Curiosity seems to outweigh any judgment call on their part. They watch with warmth and humor. It's a mirrored mime of sorts. Your gestures and expressions elicit equally expansive smiles and nods from them - a series of silent greetings, as you feel your way in an unplanned meeting. Though you were initially daunted by the mass of onlookers, your reticence dissolves into fascination at the scene around you. Their unabashed inquisitiveness feeds your own. How to capture this moment, you wonder, and pull out a camera. As you point the lens at the audience, they lean into the picture, eager to immortalize a moment of their living. A bridge is built, mime melts into words, and hands beckon. And then, as so often happens when you edge toward greater intimacy on travels, the moment passes. The car creeps forward as the road's congestion clears, and your journey continues, richer for this brief interlude.

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