I am a pretty confident storyteller. I know how to find a beginning, wend my way toward the middle, do some memorable flourishes, and then wind up to either an operatic or an understated end, landing softly on a pillow of words arranged just so.
But I can’t make sense of India. I have so many ideas and feelings and reckonings I want to share, but almost all of them look and sound not quite right when I commit them to these little characters, parsed with commas and m-dashes and separated politely with endpoints.
India is a car crash and a symphony. It’s chaotic and calming in equal measure. Nothing makes sense there, except, then, suddenly, everything.
Because the no-sense of it—and I’ll get to specifics eventually, I promise—is the IS, is the India. And, in a larger way, is the reality of most of the world. We, in America, with our proud attitudes and thirst for enchanting diversions and our indulgent luxury for pointless ideological conflict and and and….
I felt a lot of shame in India. Shame in the insane luxury of my house—a home I weirdly convinced myself is just an average home, because there are so many estates around me. Shame that I long for things, objects, treasures, even though I know that for me the love of design objects for me is almost a faith, the way they express the imagination, skill and humanity of those who made it.
But the shame wasn’t humiliating, self-abnegating. It was more like a constant thrum of:
A moment of reflection, and then I would be instantly swept back up in looking and seeing and greeting and smiling and pressing my nose up against the window of the bus and watching motorcycle after motorcycle, with two, three, four, I swear to you five, passengers zoom by. And the crazy tuk-tuks, which are basically three-wheel motorcycles with little cabs on them so they look like an amusement park ride more than a highway-safe vehicle, painted all manner of colors, with people constantly hopping on and off them, without waiting for the tuk-tuk to slow. In fact, the thing you see the least on the roads in India are cars. Tractors, yes, pulling flatbeds filled with logs or bricks or people, or all of the above. Bicycles, yes. Bicycles with crazy coop contraptions tied onto the back, carrying dozens of filthy dun-colored chickens with red caps to who the hell knows where. And an endless parade of construction trucks, painted salmon or aqua or red or green, and bedecked with long black tassels on the rear-view mirrors, and shining aluminum trim and hand-painted letters and decorations, and some of them even had silver bells hanging below the back bumper, or had painted patterns arrayed like eyelashes on the edges of the windshield.
In India, pink is just a color.
In India, trash is part of the landscape, inescapable.
In India, everything is so EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME.
I want this post to make sense. I want it to say something coherent. But for now all I can say is I am enraptured. The gorgeous and the ugly; the beautiful and the terrible… could there be another place on earth that so clearly captures the everything of the world in one fell swoop? That shows the undirected accidents of fate so plainly and clearly? That mixes up the impossible and the transcendent in one big fucking unbelievable soup?
I felt like I was out on the very edge of seeing what the world is, seeing something I know and recognize from within my heart —– but seeing it in person was so much deeper and wider than I could have known.
India is everything you’ve ever heard, except, for me, I found that it all added up differently in person. I wanted to freeze frame every single second and hold it in my hand and stare at the photo of it and take it all in and notice each little detail. But there’s too much to see.
I don’t know when it will organize itself in my head in a way that will allow me to bring you along on the journey with me. But I know I will be going back.