I’ve seen, heard and felt the chaos and I’ve been a part of it.
I’ve tried delicious new food and I’ve eaten it with my hands. I’ve become addicted to masala dosas and I’ve tried to compare the different types of sambar. I’ve had many a chai but not more than in Turkey. I’ve had street food and food poisoning, the two not being necessarily related. I’ve also enjoyed the tremendous luxury of finding vegetarian food literally anywhere I went. And I’ve grown a bit tired of the milk while I couldn’t stop eating curd made from it.
I’ve learned to drink like everyone else, without touching the neck of the bottle, but decided I preferred to European-drink. And for the first time in my trip I bought water-bottles. In India it means water filtered at least five so that absolutely nothing is left in it – it’s safer like that, or so they say.
I’ve been stared at, intensely.
I’ve been asked for “one photo M’am” a thousand times.
I’ve perfected my road-crossing technique, the one I’ve acquired in Turkey then refined in Iran.
I’ve happily shaken my head sidewise for “yes” while sometimes adding “han”.
I’ve been blessed by theatrical beggars and I have disappointed many of the normal kind. I’ve wondered a lot at street children and the kind of life they have and I’ve spent an amazing but short time with some rescued ones.
I’ve been seen as one big wallet. I’ve enjoyed tons of white privileges while feeling guilty about it. It’s been assumed everything about me, based on my skin colour: that I would pay the money that was asked, that I would buy any Chinese plastic crap on offer, that I would sleep with the first man bold enough to ask. I’ve heard the desperate yet greedy hope in the sellers’ “yes M’am??”
I got used to almost everything from the honking to sleeping with a fan. ButI couldn’t really get used to the garbage. Rivers of waste and seas of rubbish, paths of litter and trails of plastic. So infinitely sad.
I’ve been in countless autos. I’ve bargained fiercely, most of the time. I’ve paid whatever price they asked for some other times – when the driver was fair or when I was too tired for the game. I’ve learned that kilometers don’t mean anything; it’s all about travel time and it has many criteria to it.
I’ve tried on a saree and felt pretty.
I’ve learned a new scale.
I haven’t learned Hindi.
I’ve written a song but only one.
I’ve trekked in the Himalaya with a great group of people. I haven’t been to Goa and I have been asked many times how it was. I’ve been in the heat of Hampi and in the fresh air of Manali. I’ve spent a week in the train. I’ve enjoyed the breeze in Pune. I’ve endured the humid air of Mumbai. I’ve been to many places. And I’ve found that after a while, all Indian cities look alike.
I’ve done all I could to avoid air-conditioning.
I’ve seen the beginning of the monsoon and I’ve been impressed.
I’ve tried my best but couldn’t manage to find moustaches attractive. Nor the neon orange hair from a bad henna dye. I’ve liked the shirts though, most of the time.
I’ve talked to Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Sikhs, Buddhists and whoever else you want. I’ve heard beautiful things and I’ve heard some racist shit, here like everywhere else.
I’ve been scared a little by big statues and by doll-size gods. I’ve saluted some friendly ones. I’ve felt strong and sure, then not any more. I hope I’ve grown a bit.
I’ve smiled at the children and they smiled back. Their mothers, too.
I’ve had more than one intense encounter. I’ve made some friends. Many, many friends.
Now away from this colorful chaos, I felt strange at first. I know I will go back.
I’ve been to India!