Saturday, January 12, 2008

Chutney Impressions

Sometimes I think I love India because I don't know how else to react. A few observations to which I can tie no stories:

  • One of the things that I encounter every day is the concept of things lost in translation. For example, when we were visiting a museum in Pune, Friend and I quite enjoyed reading the captions below the artifacts. A sampling:




A weapon (really?)

A Hanging Pot

Cords for the string (…what?)

The only exit from the building

No Entry

Just read the caption

Erotic Nut-Cutters

A fork

A spoon

  • It's pretty easy for me as a native English speaker to get a good laugh out of these, but now I always seem to hear Salman Rushdie's words in my head: He said that of course there are many things lost in translation, but that there are also many things to be gained. And I agree.
  • Today, I got crapped on by an extremely exotic bird.
  • Even after being around an exceedingly large number of yoga-rific people, meditation still eludes me. The closest I come is being on a train. As the pitter-pat train rain that is monsoon travel rattles its way through the country, my mind slows as I watch little boys hanging out the train doors, surf-singing, shoeless and skinny. Births and berths intermingle and forty hours pass before I realize I’ve covered a semi-continent.
  • I went to the Jungle and saw wild tigers. Oh, and it was the Actual Jungle Book Jungle. Oh, and I got to dance with a remote jungle tribe around a fire. I held hands with a little girl, and as we smiled at each other without words and danced, I didn’t know if she was leading or if I was. The next day we went looking for tigers, with nary a one to be found. And yet, sitting in peace with the ghost of Mowgli, there was a silent magic just knowing they were there.
  • One of my favorite things to do in India is work at an orphanage. I love those kids...they're adorable and I don't have to make them fill out paperwork. On Sundays, I try to bring some other college friends with me so that more kids get attention. Last Sunday, as I was singing songs to the 12 children in my lap, I looked up and saw a lot of kids with formerly bleak lives getting love and affection from adults from America, Afghanistan, Germany, Indonesia, Canada, India, Norway and Sri Lanka. Sometimes, I apparently live in an after-school special.
  • As I was trying to get on the plane to Thailand, I was told I couldn't go because I had left my residency certificate in Hyderabad (still paperwork is the bane of my existence). All my newly-learned swear words flooded through my head and I was in a panic. And then, through a combination of crying, phone calls, fax machines, and very nice people, I somehow got on the plane. It was so typically India: a stupid bureaucratic detail can completely screw you over, and then 6 people in two states will frantically work to help you break the rules. Oh, India.
  • On the train ride back to Hyderabad, I shared a compartment with 60 college-bound, 19-year-old boys, all of whom insisted on having an oddly Russian-esque dance party for almost the entire 16 hours. Except one, who tried to convert me.
  • One of the things you find out in India is where your lines are. What will you tolerate, and what will you not. It's as if I had drawn those lines with a big piece of chalk long ago, and I had thought the dust left behind were my lines. But the wind and the sweat and the monsoon have pushed that dust away...and shown me that the wide lines of dust were simply on top of thin lines drawn in indelible ink. And so in some ways I have become a much more tolerant person. And in some ways I will tolerate much less.