It’s a cool morning. I’m surprised for the need of a shawl to cover my shoulders whilst I sit upon the rooftop of my guest house, watching the sun slowly rise.
I am in Rajasthan after all, the desert. Who knew to bring something warm?
The days heat is assumed, for the sun will always beat down on us in the desert.
The last time I visited India, was also the first. After those three months of extensive travel through the dust and dirt, I was VERY ready to leave.
The last time I was here, I had more hate than love. Now that I return, the love is greater than hate.
Because they say you either love it, or hate it, here in India… Though of course they are wrong and it is an intense mixture of both. One minute you are in love with this world, this moment, and the next… well you can be found bundled down in the corner of a room, crying and cursing the very existence of this country… (Or maybe that was only me?)
Which ever way you put it, India is all that is life, all that is living.
With as ancient a culture as any, can we really be surprised?
India lives, India breathes, she spits, she stares, she’s slimy, she’s as bright as anything you will ever see, she will laugh at you in your face, she hocks up copious amounts of flem, she will make you cry, crawl and plead… But she is kind, she is sure, she is overall the mother of all.
It is no wonder than India’s filth, India’s vicious reality, is mesmerising.
How can it not be?
Too come to India and not be moved in some way, not be lightened or touched, is near impossible.
As Westerners, we see a way of life so unlike our own, and we wonder, why not us?
Why were we born to that of a… lets say financially more developed country?
I could have just as easily been forced to marry at 16. I could have just as easily been doing my homework each afternoon in the dust on the ground, whilst I look after my three younger siblings. It could have been me, walking around the cities of this colourful country, dressed in a Sari, begging for change from the tourists, the backpackers, like myself… But instead I float through life, compared to that of a 24 year old Indian women, things come easy for me.
Incredible India… that’s what the visa office in London has written all over its walls. With shining pictures of an Indian women in white, striking yoga poses in the mountains of the North.
And it is incredible, but what they don’t show you, what you cannot see until you land, is that India is anything but the pristinely white yoga gear the women in the photo wears. You don’t hear the music that blares at 5AM from places of worship, or see the children as young as 4 in the middle of the night walking the streets asking for change, the smell that deranges all your senses as you walk the streets, both of incense and cow shit, human wee and masala chai’s.
You will never know India, unless you see her with your own eyes, unless you interpret her for yourself.
And she is different for all who enters her womb. For some she teaches kindness, gentleness and patience, for others I’m sure guidance and acceptance, but for most I am sure, she opens their eyes, almost like they are seeing the colour and light and all that is bright for the first time.
My first trip to India, I thought; “Sure, I have done quite a bit of travel, around South East Asia, the Americas and Europe… I think I can handle India.”
I think I gave myself a bit too much credit.
Even now, my second time round, I figured I had it sorted, I was ready for the wave of fog that was sure to envelop my entire body… But when I walked out of the New Delhi International Airport and into the insanity that is Delhi itself, the smog hit me like a ton of bricks and for a moment I was like Dorothy when she landed in Oz… Everything had gone from black and white into technicolour. All my senses where immediately switched on. I felt, hmm how should I say? I felt alive, that’s for sure.
And that is what I feel here, alive.
India reminds me, metaphorically of a SCOBY, or what some call a mother (ha). A SCOBY or Mother is the live culture of bacteria that looks some what like a placenta, and is needed to create the ever-giving beverage Kombucha, a mother is also needed to create sourdough bread. A human SCOBY is a placenta, so basically what I’m getting at is India reminds me of a placenta.
This living, breathing, slimy world keeps giving. It is as we have already established, the mother. And no wonder India is known as this, as the mother.
The people of India may not have a lot, but they are abundant in faith, in hope, in accepting their roles in life.
This is why they are happy.
When I left India in May to continue my travels through Asia and Europe, I stopped writing. Everything in comparison to India was bland, boring, and so I saw no reason to write. Or maybe it was that my inspiration had fallen to the waste side. Because in India, I could write or talk for hours about one little encounter that lasted all of 20 minutes that I had with a shop owner buying silk wrap skirts, I could bicker on and on about which dishes I ate and where and why they were my favourite… I could sit and talk to someone about all the reasons India INFURIATES me for literally HOURS, and I have.
I once sat and talked to a Canadian I met in Vietnam, about all the reasons why I hated India, and by the end of this 1 and half hour conversation he was looking online to book a flight straight there.
I guess that’s just it though. No matter what India has in store for you, you can be sure that it will be vivid, you can be sure that amongst all the chaos you will find some kind of something, whatever it is that you may need. And even if she does swallow you up chew you like an Indian man chews that red tobacco that they ALL chew and then spits you back out spluttered along the side of a bus, at least your time here will be remembered. You may look back and laugh, or cry, most likely both.
For me, India is still growing in my mind. It took me almost 6 months to reflect on my time here and now that I am back I’m sure I will go through it all again.
But now it is softer in my head, the India I knew my first time round is stored and I now seem to be experiencing a slightly altered version. It’s not that I had a bad time last time I came, I just held a LOT of emotions from everyday India in, and once I left I let it out.
Now I see more the hope, the faith, the beauty in their negligence that is only negligence to someone who knows better, and really, who is to say they know better. I think I must have thought I use to “know better”, but who I am I?
We are raised in a world where everything has “a time and a place”, but in India, nothing has a time nor a place… Maybe that is why it is so appealing to us all, because in India, anything goes, and aren’t we all sick of colouring in in-between the lines?