Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Back Home

Did you keep up your blog?

No, wifi connections were spotty. I did something much more tried and true. I actually wrote - in a journal, just like I have done for most of my life.  I filled an unlined moleskin notebook and remembered how much I enjoyed writing longhand.

So now comes the blog.

Yes, of course I have photos. I shall upload a few. But as you may have noticed, visuals are limited on this blog!

It was just 6 days ago that I sat in the back of an uncomfortable small taxi without air conditioning being trounced around as we drove through narrow poorly tarred roads that wound up and down through the hilly countryside from Udaipur to Kumbalghore (Kumbalghash) the massive almost impregnable fort built in the 15th century, and Ranakpur, the exquisite Jain Temple. I wondered what and how to write about these experiences.

I think I will begin with being in, or on a vehicle, (I actually rode on the back of a scooter!) as it seems a metaphor for India itself. The only driver whose car seemed to have a seatbelt told me not to use it 'it is against comfort Madam.' He said this to me as he hurtled through congested lanes while conversing on his cellphone and honking. None of the millions of people on motor scooters wear helmets - I am sure that too,  is 'against comfort.' Many had bandannas tied around their faces, some kind of attempt against pollution, I am sure. It was dark as we drove from the airport to Udaipur and needless to say, roads were packed, as were the stalls and lanes at the side of the road. Suddenly the driver braked and we came across what appeared to be a major traffic jam. I peered out of the window to see bikes, cars, buses, scooters, tuk-tuks, rickshaws,  pedestrians, all seemingly patiently waiting for a cow to amble across the road. Then we were off again, a kind of choreographed balletic flow.

The idea of personal space is quite different in India People jostle and touch and push one against the other. A total stranger on the boat from Elephanta Island back to Mumbai cuddled next to me, arms around me, soft and smiling, as her daughter 'snapped us.' It seems to me that everyone enjoys being in close proximity, 'one to the other' and this proximity is also enjoyed on the roads. Every type of vehicle, from outsized trucks to bikes and cars also appear to enjoy being perilously close to each other. One feels the motion in the air as a car moves closely by, the warmth of an engine, glancing off someone's legs on a bike. All familiar, all comforting to each other, and for me, each exhalation is filled with gratitude at having survived.

I sat in the back of the taxi, bouncing up and down, my tailbone hitting the hard area of where the belt should have been, my spine undulating and bouncing, sweat pouring off my face, and thought to myself that I must tell friends to remind me that I must never ever  come to India again.

What is it about this country that keeps drawing me back? No sooner than I thought that I must never return, than I began to plan yet another trip in my head.

I think that for me, anyway, the stream of consciousness that constantly flows all around is an in-my- face reflection of the universality of the human condition. The universality of grinding poverty reflected in every line deeply etched on the faces of those passing by. They are emaciated, their legs bowed, they surely suffer from rickets. Poverty and suffering are part of the human condition - here we cannot avoid it. Every thing I see reflects the hardships, it is visible on the people, the dogs, the cows, the monkeys.
And untold wealth- a 27 storey building in Mumbai where the richest man in India lives, replete with helipad and an entire floor which is a swimming pool - and two people live there, with 2-300 servants!
And beauty - faces light up with smiles, the large velvet eyes of the children gaze out seriously from under thick lashes to light up the area around them.

And devotion - the joy on the faces of people in the temples, the beautiful thousands of years old traditions of darshan and arati. The fragrance of jasmine, the blowing of conches, the tinkling of bells. A constant flow of all that ever was, and all that is, and all that will ever be.

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