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Saturday, April 21

I need more time.

If it wasn't clear already from my lack of blog posts, I am having a hard time articulating all of my emotions. This is partly because, when I am on a computer, it's in an internet cafe that is impersonal and uncomfortable, and partly because... Because India is just so much. India is just so much to take in, and how can I describe everything that I'm feeling in this moment, let alone in the past few weeks?

This trip, on a basic level, has become focused on survival. About finding food, finding shelter, and finding transportation.  It is about communicating and navigating the various cultural hailstorms that accost you every time you walk into the street.

But on a deeper level, it has turned into a trip about identity. Not only my identity as a female and as a human, but also about my history and ancestry and, for lack of a better word, about my Indian-ness. All my life, I have felt that, although I am Indian and I am American, I am not Indian-American. And many of you reading this will say, "Whhha?" because you have no idea what I'm talking about, but a rare one or two of you will nod your heads slowly in understanding. Because those are three very different cultures, and now I have this opportunity to figure out a little bit more about how I fit into everything.

A part of me was hoping that I would fall head over heels in love with India, but I haven't. Because it's never just that simple, is it? A part of me never wants to leave, and another part of me wants to get on a plane to Amritsar tonight and hide at my grandparents' house for the next two weeks.

Now I'm just ranting, and I haven't yet said anything more than ambiguous "this is kind of how I'm feeling" statements. So now a little tidbit from today:

Kay and I stumbled upon a beautiful Gurdwara Sahib in the midst of the mostly Islamic city of Srinagar. Walking into its gates was like walking into an oasis. In a city that has ambushed me with its foreignness (it barely even feels like India here, and most everyone's first language is Kashmiri, which I don't understand at all), it was like coming home. White marble, familiar architecture, blissful silence -- It was wonderful. There was no one there except for the Babas that live there, and one of them reminded me so much of my Pitaji. He talked to me and Kay for a long time (In Punjabi, which was also a relief) about Sikh history, the history of that Gurdwara, and then blessed us and called us his daughters.

While in Srinagar, Kay and I have been harassed almost nonstop. The first night that we got here, it was frightening. A man got into our taxi and was talking to our driver in Kashmiri, trying to get him to take us somewhere else. Our phone wasn't working, I couldn't communicate well with the driver, it was around 10pm, and we were... Frightened, to say the least. And although our experiences since then have been better, men are constantly staring at us and coming up to us and following us. So to walk into this Gurdwara and talk to a man who clearly had no ulterior motives, who truly saw us as his daughters, who made us cha and showed us around. It was a relief and a gift. It made me cry almost.

Oh. And that's another thing about India. I feel like crying a lot. But usually not tears of sadness. It's just overwhelming. The utter humanness of everyone. Everything is so raw here. The poverty, the socioeconomic disparity, the chaos and the rudeness, but also the kindness. It is earnest and so pure when it is there, when a person you just met looks you in the eyes, squeezes your hand and says, "My heart is warm from having met you." Those moments, those moments.

That is what I will take away from India. "Will you remember me when you go back to America?" Yes, bakery uncle, who used to be an economics professor. Yes, I will.


Meaghan Kelly said...

This is the most worthwhile piece of writing, I've read in a long time. Thank you.

Beth Berens said...

If that was in an impersonal and uncomfortable environment, I want to read your posts written in some cozy cafe in the south of France staring at the mountain backdrop while the sun sets. Sitting on a beanbag.