Amazing animals suddenly normal in my daily life, the way we see a house pet in the US;
the methodical thudding of the wood deliveries by elephant,
the rattlesnake brood, a proud mother, I nervously passed on my walk to the office,
monkeys stealing mangoes by the cafe at lunchtime, infuriating the humans, all competing for resources, and the long suffering sacred cattle, who to my western mind seemed quite miserable, literally birthing in the bus stop, but at least not to be disturbed.
It is a wild life indeed when all this becomes your normal.
Waking to the beautiful soulful morning call to prayers, as the slums came to life outside our pristine university walls. The heat of the rising like a physical lead weight over the city, creating triple digit heat, which the trickling thread of the river could not relieve.
The stunning terrifying Wild West experience of navigating the roads, with tuk tuks, trucks, camels, motorcycles, elephants, donkeys, buses, bicycles and the rare car. All moving forward forcefully, negotiating whichever side, pace & direction suits them, only slowed by any show of hesitancy. Barely abiding the single traffic light in the city of millions.
Although by then I was a seasoned world dweller, it was only the desperation for fresh produce and the help of three deeply amused street children which finally forced me off the relative ease of the arboretum campus and across the modest but terrifying road for the first time. Where the children came in was rescuing from the ‘median strip’ where I was stranded for ages, to their absolute hilarious entertainment. In hindsight over a shared chai, with no actual common language but humor, I had to agree I must have looked ridiculous! Although at the time I was sure I would die under or on the windscreen of some rumbling beast.
And knowing that even with all that I saw as ‘exotic,’ in every simple moment-from the oddity of the ease of finding strawberry milk, but impossibility of finding plain cows milk-to the deeply unique Indian rituals of life I witnessed daily as I passed through the city, private and public moments happening all around me, marriage, life, death, birth, and all over again. Realizing that to the kindly helpful but intensely meddling crowds, who always moved as one, I-a single white female negotiating daily life alone in Gujurat, was the single most shocking thing they would encounter in the city. An anomaly beyond compare, I was an utter enigma that I soon found no amount of conversation could explain. I was truly an oddity, or beyond, perhaps exotic, erring on the side of unnerving.
Watching people observe their ablutions, in the perfect isolation of their minds, lined up side by side, utterly exposed, along the side of the road, it was astounding to me that I was the oddity. But I knew within days that this was the case. That is the thing with a hegemon. You are in it, all the way in, or you will drown fighting it. But if you allow, you can be watch and participate with awareness that this reality, although your present and everyone's only truth, it is not quite yours. But in that moment it is.
The deafening return of millions of birds to our little university arboretum in the desert, the nightly cacophony so intense you could feel the millions of wings displacing hot dusty air, almost as I imagine you would a sonic boom. Massive raptors who hunted through the fray, colorful parrots the students fawned over, doves, and dozens of delicate sparrow like birds I did not know, they throbbed in pulsing upward gyres so intense you ducked for cover, before darkness, and they, settled for the night into their roosts.
Just another day at work in Amehdabad.
People always ask what I thought of India. There are no amount of words here or verbally that could cover it, and I have seen a fraction of it.
So my answer is that India is intense - whatever the emotion or the experience, it is intense. Intense beauty, sadness, heat, frustration, fear, tastes, sounds, smells, hope, or awe. You are never just going through the motions, you are always 100% present