Once again I find myself in deep water, bodysurfing whitewater rapids on the Ganges and the waves are coming in over my head. That’s India for me right now. India is rolling over me and I’m trying to catch up, trying to capture what I’m not capturing cause it’s happening so fast.
What I’m not capturing is . . .
Things built up but not thought out, ugly and inelegant. Half finished bridges off half finished highways. “New” bottles of water that are old bottles of water that have been resealed. Children breaking rocks with sledgehammers at the side of the road. Copy cat hotels with the same name and the same misspelled “reccomended by Lonly Planet” signs.
Impossible amount of people, standing for hours on a long distance bus. Temples that have shopping stalls in them. Taking off your shoes to get into a holy place and then coming back with feet dirtier than your shoes are. Nothing is cleaned, just swept. Swept under the rug, swept away with brooms that look like hand dusters, harder than it has to be. Hotel employees who work 12 hours a day every day sweeping dust right past you and on you, watering right on you as they water the plants, as if you are just part of the scenery and they could care less. Ricks that drive right into oncoming traffic as if they could care less, about your life or their own.
Being quoted silly prices and then when you walk away having people chase you down the street offering same thing at half. Everytime you ask for directions being told to “go straight” and then “ask anyone”. Flies around cow dung and open urinals in pilgrimage towns. Hungry children demanding chapati and selling balloons.
What I’m not capturing is . . .
Chaiwallas everywhere, teahot and sweet and just when you need it, just when you are about to give up. Beautiful children staring at you. Good looking horses. Good looking cows. Good looking goats. A smell wafting by that is so delicious you just want to follow it like Italian men follow pretty ladies down the street. A pounding bass and tabla soundtrack accompanying your shared rickshaw ride. A statue of Shiva with his hair blowing in the wind like the hero on the cover of a romance novel.
People busting out laughing when they see you, or giggling behind their hands and pointing. Ruins that were ruins before your country was born. Someone speaking English to you and helping you off the bus when all the signs are in Hindi. People shouting “Obama” at you, and smiling. Asking someone if they are Hindi and having them respond “Yes, I’m Indian”. Invitations to people’s houses in far away desert states.
Incense, chanting and prayer anytime and anywhere; and a hundred signs for every type of yoga imaginable. Wandering holy men playing cricket. World cup quarter finals wins celebrated with homemade fireworks. “Fixed price” bargained down with “no problem” and “final price”. Signs that don’t translate well into English, unintentionally hilarious. Orange and purple and pink and red saris all in a row. Street food that doesn’t make you sick. Desperately looking for good dosa in the North. Hot chapati right off the grill.
Why I’m not capturing it anymore . . .
Harder to see it now, maybe been here too long or maybe not nearly long enough, it’s seeping in and I’m becoming Indian. I push in line now, crowd right up on people. I dress down servants. I throw garbage right on the ground. I’ve got this Indian accent creeping up on me that embarrasses me yet that I can’t quite shake. I fiercely defend India to outsiders and curse it roundly to insiders every chance can I get. I’m planning a whole day around the India vs. Pakistan cricket semi-finals match. I want to get out of here so bad, yet I’m so very sad when I think about leaving.