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Are You Pulling Your Weight in the World?

There are many images of India that I will carry away with me, but one of the most outstanding is of the thin, sinewy, obviously strong women walking along the side of the road carrying enormous bundles of wood on their heads. These bundles consist of 30 to 50 lbs. of 2″ to 3″ thick sticks of between 10′ to 14′ in length.

How do I know?

The other day we took a trip to the Peechi Dam about 6 km from the retreat we have been at for the past two weeks. As we sauntered back towards our car I spotted three women resting for a moment, massive bundles of sticks wrapped in string lying on the ground nearby.  Curiosity got the best of me and I reached down to pick up a bundle that was easily 12 feet long. Surprised by how much it weighed, I jokingly struggled like a mime in my feigned attempt to get it off the ground. The women began to giggle. Then with extreme effort I lifted it up, wobbling unsteadily and trying to find my balance as beads of sweat broke out on my brow. My cap was not much of a cushion and the wood bundle really hurt as I set it down on my skull.

By now the “wood carriers” were laughing openly at me as were other passers by. Even the strict military guard keeping his eye on me to make sure we photographed only the women and not the Peechi Dam—strictly prohibited since 1957—broke into an amused smile. One of the women approached me placing a protective towel on her head. In an effort to help I swung the load in her direction only to knock it to the ground.  Deftly she replaced the towel and effortlessly lifted the entire bundle from me maneuvering it into perfect balance within seconds. She then spun slowly and with a slight bend of the knees retrieved her shopping bag!! I could believe her strength and agility.

Walking more elegantly than fashion models on a ramp, the three floated fluidly beneath their cargoes, spines undulating like flames on a candle seeking its center above the wick. They literally drifted up the hill while I stood below awestruck.  So I ask you, “Are you carrying your weight in the world?” I know they are here in amazing India.