Chapter Five: India (in progress)
Mumbai Travel Blog› entry 38 of 47 › view all entries
I have a million pictures from India.... On the other hand, cobbling together a story from my journals and letters and trying to do justice to how that country has coloured my memories and my perceptions from that day to this, has been, um, a challenge.
I am almost ready to begin the story of
donc ensuite, encore...
in media res
He told me his name was Dada, tho I have since found out that "Dada" is an Indian label of respect, so I think he was pulling one over a poor tired looking solo newcomer.
But he was young, maybe 10 or 11, too young to be working the street scene this late. He showed me the way to the hotel I had picked out from my guide; in return (as promised) I bought his string of jasmines for 10 rupees and a smile.
I always seem to be arriving in these places at inopportune hours--when it is dark, and a wandering blond female with a backpack looks like she needs some help.
“Yes?” “Yes Mam” “You need something Man, yes?” “Change Money” “Yes Auntie, Cheap hotel, yes Mam, you follow me.” I would soon learn how to wade thru swarming ‘I’ll be helpful' moments, a necessary trick as I head up through Northern India on my way to the mountains.
Always aware of the price at the other end.
Dada was sweet, however. He’d sold no jasmines all evening, and my offer was high.
There are not many tourists in
As we plodded the six to ten city blocks in the after- humidity, we passed two cat-sized dead rats (long tails straight, scaly and unmoving now--the reason for their demise unknown), and many crumbling old colonial buildings which, the next morning, I would find all look exactly the same as the hotel I eventually settled into.
On the plane over from
Then, there was the sign as I stood in line awaiting my “you may enter
for the elderly, the disabled, and “unaccompanied ladies”
& finally, materializing out of the group of people the airport was disgorging, an Indian Canadian gentleman who helped me through a flash strike by the taxi drivers at the airport. An unexpected glitch to betray my lack of expectations.
He got me onto a bus that would head for the city's old port area, where the backpackers congregate. He gave me a lesson in how not to let anyone see my money and, with total old world courtesy, reached over to show me the fleeting shadow of the mosque out on the water as the bus headed to town.
The next day, refreshed, there was
An elegant argument, if one stops to contemplate the logic.
& I heard the railway stations in this city push thru 70,000 people per hour
That’s a lot of flesh, no guff.
Like so many things in India, it blows all sense of perspective
Sure, it’s all overwhelming at times.
Took a night train from
no no NO!!
I am on my way to Dharamsala. A little mountain town overlooking the
“Slow, quiet and peaceful.”
God! It sounds like paradise. A week in
Too many people. Too much heat blasted flesh.
does this flow of people never stop??
The press of people in these cities is, I figure, more monumental and more uncompromising than the mighty
Still, if you take a picture (exchange elbows and action for the press of a button), this
The women’s saris: a riot of colours too bright to be found in nature. Indian women are intoxicating, with their fabulous flowing silks and chiffons, their dark faces and shiny smooth black hair, pierced noses, ankle chains, and forehead adornments
“Yes, Mam” “Yes?” My head is spinning with so much seeing. The sounds crowding together under the sun’s glare. “Yes?” a rickshaw knocks my bag almost off my shoulder.
Then, in the midst of it all, this afternoon: a guy 20ish, well dressed. He is amused by the stanch “I’m not interested. No!” expressions that I have learned to adopt.
“You are too strong,” he complains, smiling. “It will just make me try harder!”
I allow myself a smile at that, and he follows me, pressing his card into my hand with his own bright smile. (The family’s export business.) I am in the old
When he finds out I am writing (a disguise I use to convince myself that something concrete might yet come of all this wandering), he tells me he is from
Be it cowardice, or maybe just fatigue, maybe foresight, or even just plain sloth, I stick to a pacifist line. “I don’t believe in violence”.
“Not in the cause of justice?” he asks.
I have sympathy for his cause, like the Mayans in
But I don’t say that… it would sound cryptic even to my ears.
Just before I make my way back to the railway station where I plan to hole up and while the hours ‘til my train departs this evening, he convinces me to visit his family’s business where everything on display is hand-made in Kashmir. There is a persuasive argument, upon my entry, in favour of maybe taking some information back with me to
Photos for Amnesty International, or maybe coded messages for guerilla supporters outside
The opportunities abound for intrigue, and me, new-comer-to-it-all, I grew up on Ludlum spy thrillers. I pull myself out of the illusion, just as the possible scenarios start spilling into the many colours hanging from the alley shops. Saris like flags over the street to create shade
(pulling the wool over here eyes)
it is all of a piece/peace…
I am off, I remind myself, to Dharamsala, where they are pacifists, and meditation rules. Where, if I am lucky, people don’t focus quite so much on the desperate commerce of poor people’s “Yes, Mam”s, needing my trade to feed their families, or fuel their causes.
Howsoever just they may be.