Being Present in India
We get into the cab, a beige car with a roomy trunk to stuff our Western packs. We huddle in together, and in my peripheral vision, I see another towering jeep in front of us, stuffed to the brim with our luggage. I turn my attention to the car door, watching the windows roll down automatically. Wow, luxury. The cab driver, yet another weather-hardened and shifty-eyed man dressed in simple gray slacks and a dirty button-down shirt, presses down on the gas pedal.
And as we roll out of the station, it hits me: I am in India.
I am with the rickshaws, with Limca, with two cigarettes for a rupee, with paan and betel nut spit stains on every sidewalk. I am with the crippled beggars with no toes crawling towards me, with “Post no bills” signs glaring from the dusty walls of every building, with people staring at me from their motorcycles as if I were a window shop item on display.
I am in India, with giggling, ragged children running up to the car, their dirty hands outstretched; with that spicy scent of sweat and humidity in the air that is lost every few seconds to burning garbage; with those gorgeously bright and beautiful saris flying against the backdrop of a dingy STD store. I am with the horns that blare in every direction, with the second’s swerve the car makes to avoid another bicycle, with crumbling buildings giving way to vendors spilled out all over the street.
With every breath, every intake, there is a different aroma in my nose. With every glance in a new direction, there is a brand new sight to see. With every veer of the cab, sweat glistens on my forehead and I pray that I won’t die in this crazy driver’s car, or that at least that my bag won’t spill out onto the street.
I am in India, with incredible annoyance that always turns into extraordinary patience; with the collective hope, that unifying feeling in the air that something better is just around the corner; with the immense chaos and differentiation felt at every turn; but with the recognition that in this diversity, there is a unity, a beating heart, a rhythm, a perfectly and meticulously-timed, beautiful mess.
This is India. And I am here.