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A little old man came out of a fabric store and lit a stick of incense. He had a pronounced lower lip, which dangled more than a foot from the bottom of his face. He shook and brandished his wondrous lip and the young men around him trembled and approached. He held his left hand low and made a gesture with his palm toward the ground and shook his lip once more. The young men scattered back into the store. Then he spoke some kind of offering, a prayer to the sky above. Then he blew his nose and went back inside.

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The one dog was chasing the other dog. Both dogs were a mangy wreck, ribs visible beneath taut skin, yellow eyes. But the one dog was chasing the other dog … then he stopped … and the other dog looked back at him with suddenly sad eyes like, “hey, why’d you stop, man? … that was incredible … that was the best thing we’ve done in years … that was a dream.”

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He was crossing the street, expertly dodging a series of crazed Tuk Tuk drivers and just missing a large, dusty bus. His sweater was amazing, bold horizontal lines of green and orange. He was not wearing any pants, but his sweater was fucking amazing.

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In the middle of the grass, on the great lawn that stretches out before the delicate stone and lattice work of Albert Hall, on the strips of green that are tiny oases amidst the roar and flow of traffic, there are aged men in rags doing wonderful things. One fellow wraps his right arm around his left and then thrice about his waist simply to scratch an itch on his left lower buttcheek. Another man does complicated trigonometric equations with a long piece of yellow twine and his own face. A third man sleeps so soundly that his body sinks beneath the earth and the force of his exhaustion puts the grass to sleep and the insects to sleep and the dogs to sleep and the birds to sleep, even the angry crows, all of them, in concentric waves falling into deep slumber in the grass outside of Albert Hall.

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Do you see that human right there? No, not that one, not the one pouring an ominous looking orange-brown liquid from a bucket into the street … that one over there … no, no, not him, he actually just died, I think, please call an ambulance, would you? But no, I’m talking about the living one just over there, next to the woman carrying the sack of bags seventeen times her own body mass, next to her, do you see the human picking something from the teeth with what could be an old shoelace? Do look at the smile on that human because it is, in fact, perfect.

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Two little boys flying kites in a muddy alleyway somewhere in the middle of Jaipur. It is a jerky and convulsive flying with much tugging on short strings. The kites dart this way and that like minnows in a shallow stream. The sound of techno beats drift down into the alleyway from one of the windows above. Dunk chicka dunk, da dunk chicka dunk dunk. The kites dance and jerk. On a rooftop nearby, another little boy holds for dear life onto a long white string attached to another kite so high above the alleyway it may not be in Jaipur anymore, may not, anymore, be of this earth at all.

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When you hear the call to prayer, don’t do anything. Unless you are a muslim, in which case there is much to be done. But if you are not, then this is the time for you to shut up and sit there, to let the human voices rise up above the muttering of the birds, and to hear the voices commingling in ever more insistent calls for the God to come, or for us to come to the God, or for something please this once, just tonight, as the light of the day fades into gray, something special just this once to happen between God and man, Spirit and dusty road, the trembling truth of it all just to show itself once in the crack between the seams of Being as these seams unravel, just a bit, on a chilly evening in the Pink City, as the rolling desperate waves of the Call to Prayer fade away again back into the stones and the night and, Allah be Praised, you may go about your own business again now, tonight, if you dare and you may pretend, if you like, that the world is just the world even though you know now, in your heart, in the city of Jaipur, that the God was here, if but for a moment, and that the stones of the city heave and exhale with the shaky excitement, with the moist enlivening that is the breath of Allah, or whoever…

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I doubt you will believe this, but the pot-bellied fellow with the beak nose and the melancholy eyes and the shoes one size too small for his pigeon-toed feet and the hesitant smile and the gentle dye-stained hands was wearing a dirty red long-sleeved t-shirt that had two words printed just over his heart … “being human.”

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What I learned, recently, from an Ayurvedic chemist and textile man and sometimes philosopher is that we are currently in the 5th Age of the world and that’s pretty bad … soon enough, we’ll all live under the earth in pits of guar gum and we’ll creep out at night to collect Tamarind seeds and compare auras, which will be lousy, each aura more pathetic than the last and by the 6th Age, which is coming soon, the entire universe will have been transformed into just one endless pot of boiling goo. After that, things are looking up.

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The yards and yards and yards of pink fabric drying in the sun were gathered up by a skinny man in sandals who put the now impossibly compacted bundle on his head and disappeared around the corner, never to be seen again.


The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Written by: Morgan Meis

Morgan Meis is a contributor to Page Turner at The New Yorker. He has a PhD in Philosophy and has written for The Smart Set, n+1, The Believer, Harper’s, and VQR. He won the Whiting Award in 2013. Morgan is also an editor at 3 Quarks Daily, and a winner of a Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers grant. He is the author of Ruins and Dead People, with Stefany Anne Golberg. He can be reached at morganmeis@gmail.com.

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