Sipping a cup of darjeeling as the smoke from a thousand industries wafts through the air; I sit here on my last day in India, reflecting on all I've seen and experienced these last few weeks. This city smells like camp fires, burning tongues, watering eyes, and tickling noses. On rooftops all around, I see huge piles of chili peppers laid on mats, slowly drying in the sun. They wait their turn to be ground up into the fine powder that seems to to fuel this part of the country. In courtyards far below, I see young children running giggling from older siblings carrying a bucket of water, the afternoon bath hardly going as planned. I hear the incessant honks of countless auto-rickshaws, their coming and going pulsing to this city's manic heartbeat.
A city in India is a strange place...chaos and calm somehow managing to coexist while intertwined. Time runs slower here and yet everyone is moving at a breakneck pace in a mass struggle for survival. It's a harsh place with boundless optimism. Women sing as they break rocks for pennies. There's a theater on every other corner advertising charmingly garish films that find every possible opportunity to break into song. India is a place of extremes. Yet, it's not really so different from where I come from.
I think the most poignant part of visiting a place so far removed from the one I'm precocious enough to call "my own" is noticing just how much is the same. There's this common thread of humanity that runs through us all, and seems in the quiet moments to pull us together. I tug on this thread just a little, unraveling it with my new acquaintances to discover over quiet meals the meandering pattern this thread winds through the fabric of our disparate lives. When I sit with these new friends, they teach me the old way of eating with just the hands. The spices burn their way into the cracks in my dry fingers. My fingers tingle, and I remember watching ruemy eyed men stuff and pack and cram, filling cloth sacks to the brim. This country's relish of heat knows no bounds, so sent off with a sneeze and a cough, India's fiery crop is borne off by the whiles of the wind.
The wind blows, and a man in rags hobbles to the front of my mind. He walks with a humble stick, but in my mind it's a scepter. His eyes are milky, his hands, cracked like old leather, carry a leather-bound bible. He stands in my minds eye, humility melded to a disconnection my young mind can't comprehend. Perhaps it's because those who live so close to the hereafter wander down paths of thought that those who cling to the earth cannot hope to comprehend. Perhaps when eyes are veiled for the last time new sight may awaken. Perhaps those who whisper to the world have more power than those who roar and wail. So it was that a frail figure shrouded in white drifted along beside me unto a door beyond
It's funny how each new photo I look at comes as a fresh surprise. I feel at times like an outsider looking in, each scene showing up in emulsion and pixel in a subtly different way, tugging at the seams of reality in a sense, and yet still truer than the warping of memory.
I think we as people don't want to admit that maybe, quite possibly, we aren't seeing things clearly That... if our view present is skewed, how much more variation from fact must grow in the mind? How will I see things, looking back upon these moments in time I've captured?
Will I remember....I mean truly remember? ...the smiles and the sighs, the aches in my head and the aches in my heart.. I feel as though I leave the part of myself that will best comprehend this adventure in India, perhaps never to return.