Life moves a little more slowly in India. As an Indian American living in Dehra Dun reminded us, there is Central Standard Time…and then there is Indian Standard Time. And when you’re hanging out in the quiet towns ofUttarakhand, in winter nonetheless, life seems to whisper along.
Case in point: While in Rishikesh, we’d while away the first hour or so of our day sipping Nescafe in our hotel lobby, watching sensationalist Delhi news accounts and giggling over the matrimonial ads. Time inched along, not bothered by car horns or diesel fumes or much of anything, save a sadhu or two. Glancing up from our almost-coffees and newspapers, we’d spy a cow eating breakfast on our hotel stoop, ladies gathering for an early morning chat, delivery men desperately wishing cars were allowed in this part of town, monkeys making mischief. Life moved slowly (and dare I say: peacefully) on that Rishikesh street, aflutter with life at daybreak.
Ten minutes in the life of a Rishikesh street (including a cow who seemed to be inspired by our dawdling).
The Goddess of Fortune visited me on a South Indian beach that has since been washed away.
She was not quite thirteen, with Pippi Longstocking braids and a sprightly yellow smock dress to match. Lakshmi (the name of the Hindu Goddess of Fortune) spent her days smiling spryly at European tourists while peddling shells, pens, and other trinkets to the sunburned visitors. Her father, a local fisherman, would send her out among the tourists, knowing full well that his daughter’s charms were irresistible.
With only two weeks left on the Subcontinent, I’m starting to dread our imminent departure. After the shock of the first week, I quickly fell into the rhythms of India: I am asalwar-kameeze-wearing, jasmine-beflowered, toe-ringed, namaste-greeting, puja-attending, tanned begum. Sometimes I don’t even need raita to cool down my food. and Kingfisher…Budweiser will never taste the same again. I am still puzzling over much of Indian existence (still I wonder: Why no garbage collection? Lack of traffic laws, however, I have no problem with), but for the most part I feel settled.
I’ve been in India a little over a week, but I’m not sure…we’ve lost all track of Western time and Western luxuries and Western garbage collection. We’ve finally left Delhi, and have now ventured into what Sally, our group leader, calls “down home” India: After a quick stay in Agra to see the Taj Mahal, we’re now in Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh. There are no tourists, no white people, no blondes. I’m getting a lot of stares. Even in agra, perhaps the most visited city in India, Indian families were coming up wanting to take their picture with me. One family even did a series of photos of each family member and me. Sally thought it was the American t-shirt; I think it’s my movie star sunglasses. Surely I must be Julia Roberts?!
So I have safely–if sweatily–been in India for four days now, and I am overwhelmed.
Of course, there is the heat. Or rather the humidity. Our arrival brought the monsoons, which are refreshing once they fall, but for the day-long build-up, it is sweltering. I try not to think about it too much (or the multiple ice cold showers I crave, but alas, Delhi is in a severe water crisis), but it definitely defines our experience. What’s remarkable is that Delhites don’t sweat. Ever. Well, that’s not true. Today was record humidity, and a Kashmiri woman who runs a school we visited was whining about the heat. But I’m not sure she counts…after all, she’s from the Himalayas. This is all brutal to her.
While living in Mexico, I joked that speaking Spanish forced me to be far more Zen about life: Since I could only speak in the present tense, I was forced to just live in that present tense.
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