While other parts of Asia have their allure, charm, mysteries and magic, for me there is no place like Mother India. Of all the places I travel to regularly or have traveled to ever, none feel as much as home to me as India. If I believed in reincarnation, I would be highly suspicious that in my past life I wore a sari every day, bobbed my head in agreement (or disagreement) and had more piercings and tattoos than Pink.
Why? Well, this I still have not been able to put my finger on just yet and it has been almost 10 years since my first visit.
A part of it is the intensity and energy that is 24/7 on the streets and in the markets. There are so many people, so much activity, so much noise, so many scents and so…each and every one of your senses is engaged with each step. There is more LIFE in one Indian market block than in the entirety of most US towns. As you exist in this, you cannot but become a part of this energy.
The other part of the “magic” of India is the fine line that life and death dances upon. Someone today said they saw a boiling vessel of oil on the side of the street where people, bikes, cars and animals all passed by it only mere mm from its rim. One trip, one waver, one weave and you would be covered in hot oil. Alas, it seems to just keep going – life dancing with death (or at least dismemberment) every second. Sure this is happening with us all everywhere, but in India you actually see it. Its tangible.
The only way to share the feelings that I have for India is to tell you about a 5 minute drive I was on yesterday. While driving through an extremely crowded marketplace I suddenly became aware that I was observing life through two panes of glass. The first my sunglasses which made me “masked”, “unapproachable”, “unknown” and the second was the car window pane that almost felt like I wasn’t really there. Looking into a world that was only imaginary. I pressed the automatic window control, took off my sunglasses and put my head out of the window.
There was my India. The smell of fresh ginger hit me first as we were passing a small food market. Then garlic, then a sweet lime in the air and now even sweeter onions. Jasmine and marigold weaved among the food smells and it was nearly divine. Raw and real. I am in a heavily populated Muslim town and the call to prayer was echoing around the walls of the city. The prayer seemed like a musical background to the market scene. Everyone seemed to be walking, swaying, running or talking to the beat of the prayer. The sounds were amazing, children laughing, hawkers yelling, women chatting, camels bellowing, dog barks, chanting and chanting, truck horns and bird calls. Had I been caught up in a Bolllywood music video and did not realize? Om Shanti Om!
This is the India I love. Where the tailor’s shop reads “Clothes for Womens and Giants”, and where the air is scented with ginger, jasmine and yes, is that raw open sewage on the last note? Where a warm smile means it and a head bob does to, or not! A country of contradictions. A country of beauty that will forever hold my heart.