Heartsick for a Heartbreaking Place

I cannot get India out of my head (or out of my clothes- my pack emanates of stinky spicy sweat). I miss the sweet, milky chai. I miss the little boy charming me into buying a bag of nuts (but not into buying hım a new cricket ball). I miss the babas roaming the ends of the earth with nothing but a walking stick and a pail of water. I miss the chanting odes to Shiva (I bought a CD). I miss the simple, resourceful way of life. I miss things I never imagined I would miss. Perhaps it is because I arrived straight into Istanbul, flush with its first world creature comforts that I forgot existed as I acclimatised to survive in India. As I head further southeast toward Iraq, Iran and Syria, those luxuries will surely disappear once again, but for now I cant help but enjoy what I once took for granted.  “You in the West take everything for granted…food….electricity….water…” a Keralan woman I had lunch with in Varanasi told me. Indeed, whatever I “suffered” while traveling in India was nothing compared with her daily struggles.

I was constantly stunned by the generosity, the contradictions, the tolerance of the people I encountered in the places that I visited. Never before have I witnessed such suffering…or such hope and faith. In just 1.7 months I have an encyclopedia of stories that still shock my naive mind. In just 1.7 months I still cannot grasp this crazy, compelling, confounding country. My impressions are  still dominated by my imagination, visions stemming from The Whıte Tiger, The Inherıtance of Loss, The God of Small Thıngs. From the Hindustan Times whose daily reports of the nations unrest exhaust the entire paper.

I blogged a lot about my annoyances and frustrations with the people. I was unfair and I blamed my anger on Indians I had a difficult time with. But in hindsight, I know my frustrations were mostly due to my refusal to accomodate to scant resources and a sloppy infrastructure meant for more than 1 billion people. Amid the chaos, though, I always felt intrigued and inspired by this paradoxically beautiful country.

When I was staying with Swamiji at the ashram in Gangotri, I would sometimes find him alone in his room, sitting on his bed with his eyes closed in the dark, smiling.

“What are you doing?”

“Enjoying” he answered.

I cannot wait to go back.

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~ by ceciliabien on August 14, 2009.

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