Six weeks in India.
What a ride.
But here we are. Six weeks later.
I’ve never been anywhere like this. So real.
In six weeks I’ve watched people in every conceivable part of the human condition. I’ve peered into backrooms and watched them live out their lives on sidewalks. I’ve been privileged to watch them worship, celebrate, mourn and sacrifice; the desperately poor and the nouveau riche and the ever wealthy. I’ve seen street people make do with no indoor plumbing and heard tales of 27-story buildings that house five families on prime city real estate.
I’ve seen the storybook quality of castles and forts. I’ve heard about the lives of the maharajahs and maharanis and I’ve lived like one. I’ve met village kids happiest with a cricket bat, laughed as my children danced in the streets with “untouchables,” met people who will stop at nothing to show you a kindness even when it might mean that they have less for themselves. We’ve offered sandwiches to children who ran and protected them like golden nuggets as they ate, met strangers who are now such fierce friends that no boundary will hold them and heard sales pitches at my car window.
“Purse, lady? Flowers? Bangles? I dance?”
I’ve grown too.
Where once I was timid I’ve grown bolder. I can cross Colaba Causeway without fear and haggle over a pair of sunglasses with such ferocity I hardly recognize myself.
I’ve realized things about myself I’m not sure I’m proud of as well.
I can really eat.
I can eat naan until I’m sweating butter.
I can eat things I can’t pronounce and ask for more with a full mouth and a jabbing finger.
I can say “no” too. Over and over again.
I can do it while walking between plastic sheeted homes and dirty children, while hands are pawing at my legs, while big-eyed babies are leaning out of the hands of women claiming to be relatives and begging for rupees.
I think it would take a lifetime to move beyond being a tourist here.
There’s too much back story, too much history you aren’t a part of. Your name alone sets you apart. You haven’t been born into a system of castes or or had your future pre-determined by your forefathers’ occupation.
Culture prevents you from truly understanding the hidden meaning in a head bob (Is it a “yes” or a “no?”) or the deep, deep history in every grain of sand, every golden brick, every turban wrapped just so.
How could a foreigner ever learn the way people don’t just look you in the eye here but stare unflinchingly; sizing you up, making you make sense. The questions so intrusive, so quickly. “What do you do? How much money do you make? What did you come here?”
Somewhere along the line you settle down and settle in and that’s when the magic happens.
But it’s hard on your heart this India.
Quickly and quietly working its way in and then taking hold like the hands of a tuk tuk driver on his steering wheel in the suburbs of Mumbai; sticking like the way your meals are beginning to show on your thighs.
And then one day it’s week 6 and you’re remembering the train rides and the funny guides and the smiles of the kids and you’re wondering where the time went.
Tonight we’re on to new adventures. By the time you read this we’ll be in Dubai – a magical city full of excitement and wildest dreams. The kids are ready for days of water parks and kids clubs but I think India and our experiences there will stay with us for a long time.