Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Magic of India...?

I've wanted to come to India for years. I love the exports of its culture we get in the US: food, fabric, film; ceylon, spice and spiritual diversity. I just felt like there was magic to be found here and I wanted to experience it in every sensory way.

Honestly, the magic has been hard to find...at first.

The India we've seen so far is not of splashy brochures and five star indulgences; it's very real. There are masses of humanity everywhere, piles of trash next to temples with elephants, and smells can go from garam masala to garbage real quickly on some streets. Men are visible and women are hidden, or at least very, very busy when they're not. And poverty is evident in both the beggars and bus systems.

But if you look deeper, there is magic to be found in this chaotic, colorful, cacophony of sounds and smells.

Indians are very religious and the daily evidence of their devotion is startling. Most every Hindu has a red dot or smoky smear on his/her forehead in reverence to a special deity or blessing. Despite their small incomes, Indians buy garlands of flowers that last for maybe 2 days as offerings to the gods. They also stay up late and draw kolams (swirled, flowery Hindu symbols) on the street in front of their home or business on a daily basis to encourage prosperity. I originally thought these were drawn in chalk but later found that to be false. Instead, these artful drawings are done in rice flour-- colored and white --as not to harm any living creature that might come into contact with the design.

And every day, people come up to us and say, "Hello! Happy Christmas! Where are you from?". Honestly, at first you're wary because everyone and their brother seems to have an autorickshaw for rent, but most all of these are genuine. Children definitely do this and we had a group of them come up to us on the beach today and bring us different kinds of Indian snacks to taste. They stayed with us and told us about each, and wanted nothing more than for us to take their photo. On the train, two different people helped us get our bearings for our journey. One man got off at our same stop at 4:30am and negotiated a taxi for us, made sure we understood where we were going and then gave us his card to call him at any time if we had troubles. At 4:30am!!?? Can you imagine doing that at DIA as you're racing home from a long journey?

Magic lies in the mystery of India...you never truly know what to expect. You might turn a corner into a Hindu temple and see an elephant. Or follow a sign advertising "cooking class" and find yourself in someone's private home, drinking chai and eating homemade cookies as they show you family photos--all before you ever discuss what the class entails. A moped carries a family of five here in India, and I was more worried about hitting a goat or cow when we rented bikes than being hit by a car. And while nearly every one and every thing seems impoverished, there is still free, blessed rice for all to eat equally at centuries-old temples.

I know there's more magic to be found, as well as more hard travel that causes involuntary gulps and meditative mantras of "I'm so lucky...I'm so lucky". So far, it seems like India and I are having a slower seduction than first anticipated, but for now, it feels like the romance of the journey by trip's end will be potent.


Blogger jskalet said...

as i read what you write i feel the effort that the indian people need to exert every day just to live and yet in their own culture they seem to live so deeply in emotion and religion and family, it seems truly amazing to witness. dad

10:29 AM  

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