The *coprador bent at the waist, hovering precariously above the heads of his passengers, and I noticed that the worn spot on the back of his hat corresponded exactly with the worn spot in the fabric covering of the chappa roof.
I wondered how many hours he had spent in that place. How many miles of rough road had swayed him back and forth, up and down, creating friction between those two layers of fabric? I could read stories in the tattered cloth, and they were a small part of the repeating story I see every day.
It's the story of lined faces and bent backs. Worn-out shoes and pot-holed highways. Patches and wrinkles and fades.
The process of living here creates a lot of friction. Surface appeal is quickly worn down; true character speedily revealed.
I think the tailor realized this when he told me about his sewing machine; an antique Singer perched precariously on a stool in his tiny store.
"It was given to my grandmother as a wedding present." He said. "And it's been in the family ever since. Because of this machine, I can buy bread for my children and my wife can go to college. I would never sell it!"
The onslaught of seventy-odd years can't do much to impede such a simple, sturdy mechanism. The friction of dirt and sand, the effects of humidity and heat, can be seen in the chipped paint, the occasional belt replacements, but worth is revealed in the steady humming of the needle and food on the table.
Friction reveals, and what it reveals it will either perfect or destroy.
I have destroyed two pairs of shoes and nearly annihilated a third. Most of the clothes I brought with me have developed holes. My pride also hangs in tatters, my arrogant self-sufficiency in shreds. My veneer has cracked and my façade has crumbled, because pride is too cumbersome a load to be stuffed into the back seat of a chappa. Fear would keep me from stepping out of my house. Judgment is too heavy to be carried up endless flights of stairs.
Friction wears and tears and grinds. The flimsy things will be demolished. The worthwhile things will remain; will, in fact, be polished and perfected in the grinding. To surrender to the friction is to begin to know myself; to see what is actually inside me, and what is the quality of it. To see what is being perfected and what is being worn away. Because only what is good and solid may survive.
*Chappas are one of the main forms of public transportation here. Think large minivan with about 20-24 people inside. The coprador is the man who lets passengers in and out and handles the money.