Will you miss India?
Will you miss the crazy honking on the street; the bronze and blistering bodies cohabiting a narrow breadth of space; the stalls of watery, salty-sweet, spicy, laden, yellowing, creaming mountains of fly-infested snacks and the jingling of pennies as bodies rub against one another, pushing to be the first in line; the pink sunsets across a dusty patch of land or through the worn, grey mesh of a half-abandoned building (and there might be a story behind it!); the scarves and kurtis that play at being rainbows draped over pear-shaped bodies under oiled, coiled, tangled, wispy hair worn thin or flown high from the heat and the smoke and the traffic and the dust; the perennial sound of traffic buzzing, whistling, flying past and men hurling words at other men, often not caring; the hostility and the harshness always permeated by the yellow sun, trailing a thin line of birds; an under-construction road or building piled with concrete and mortar and bricks; the tiny hammocks made out of thin cloth with little brown babies placed within them, their tiny fingers grasping the air for the first signs of that constant struggle which is to define them for eternity; the pitter-patter of tiny footsteps clad in half-broken slippers, the supple prepubescent bodies shrouded in hand-me-downs from generations ago and turning black under layers of grime and dirt; the toothless grin of a woman shoving her hand into your ribcage in the hope for a penny or two, dancing with an undernourished babe held in her arms as the signal turns from red to green and your eyes are focused on the vapidness ten feet away; the bone-showing hungry trot of a street dog uncared for except to be thrown stones at or fed by the occasional kindness of a stranger and his bark like a question mark, challenging you or his fellow competitors to hurl another hostile gesture into his life of a street thug; the sway of a cow, its body thickened under worship and fodder as it moves nonchalantly down a busy junction; the lines of girls and boys in their late teens, dressed like a uniform in jeans and a tee-shirt from real brands or fake ones, their eyes surveying the scene of their triumph as they trudge down streets that are unwelcoming to pedestrians or navigate their bikes and scooties with the giddiness of first timers- I could write for hours about the images I’ve absorbed over the years, taking for granted the tiny around-the-corner shop where you can find anything from a stick of gum to a bar of soap and the raspy cry of an ice-cream vendor making his way through rows of houses in the twilight. I can talk about nights of religious festivities where loudspeakers would blare the word of God late into the night, regardless of an individual’s sleep requirements and marriages would be celebrated into the next morning. I can close my eyes and see shops with absurd names next to showrooms of international brands on the edge of a road with barely enough turning space for two vehicles planning to go in the opposite directions. And I can see men staring, leering glaring and women walking with their shoulders squared against the onslaught. And I can see the fear in their eyes and the spark and the absolute certainty that tomorrow too, life shall go on and they shall be here trying to make the best of what they have, fighting through a sea of other human beings just as desperate, just as intense, just as overwhelmed, just as burdened and hurt and preoccupied and obsessed and determined and helpless and amazed by the contrasts and the competition frothing all around them.
So, yes I will miss India, in my own bittersweet way.