Drifting through the backwaters of Kerala, my thoughts surface. Our time away from Bangalore has left room for reflection. The nature of time has altered with the perpetual pulse of the current beating gently on the hull of the boat. The weeks have slipped by unnoticed yet each day has passed as if procrastinating the fate of dusk. With the end in sight now, I grope for the words to describe my experience here, but find I am lost for them. Hindsight, as it were, hesitates lending its sense of closure. Yet, how can one be expected to express, to articulate, to describe all that has come to pass? India is beautiful, chaotic and inscrutable. In my incessant struggle to draw conclusions about this country, I have finally surrendered to the fact that I will always remain a wide-eyed tourist speeding via rickshaw through the streets while the city washes over me.
I’m no stranger to the cultural polarities and social idiosyncrasies of India, as this is not my first time here nor will it be my last. There is something inexplicable about this country that lures me back time and time again. Perhaps the absence of closure is the catalyst behind my need to return. The difficulty to reconcile with what I’ve seen and how such has subtly impressed itself on my heart and mind can be extrapolated to a tapestry unraveling at its end. The residue of abandoned streets traversed and fleeting eye contact with strangers linger in my mind- the baggage of memories I carry cause I can’t afford to forget. Yet, the pull of the present denies a wider lens through which to perceive the experience at large and I find myself unable to differentiate between the blur of yesterday from immediacy of today. Thus, despite my efforts to define the ways in which I feel I have grown, I fear that solely the superficial changes have surfaced-the mind refusing to unveil the rest.
This experience has, first and foremost, taught me to compromise in ways I hadn’t had to in the past. This sensibility was rooted in the realization that, like India, people have many layers and thus one must take the good and leave the bad. Aside from this, I’ve finally developed a palette for Indian food, discovered that elephants seem much bigger when on top of one and that coconut milk is tepid and a bit bitter. I figured out the hard way never to enter a rickshaw unless a consensus has been met regarding the meter. In addition, I overcame a deeply engrained fear of commuting through embracing the organize chaos of traffic in Bangalore- even with the anxiety of driving on the opposite (not wrong) side of the road. I came to realize that a car’s horn serves an entirely different function here and undermined the natural instinct not to walk out into oncoming traffic – crossing the street trusting I’ll make it to the other side alive. Not to mention, I drove a moped for the first time in Goa – a feat that I’m quite proud of. I learned that Indian wine is never a good idea and almost always a headache. And finally, I thought I’d never see that day that I successfully bathed myself out of a bucket or began taking Bollywood films seriously.
Below the surface, I feel as if I’ve grown to appreciate rather than averse the unpredictability lacing each day. Over the past few weeks, there is no doubt in my mind that I’ve cultivated a stronger sense of self in the context of the world at large. Furthermore, I leave India with a sense of gratitude – not because I’ve been the company of those who have not, but rather I’ve become aware of all that I have to be grateful for-this experience included. The impulse to count one’s blessings is met with the realization that never would I have enough fingers to do so. However, I didn’t expect to find that the South is a world apart from the North, a realization that divulges further the nation’s polarities. Surrendering to how overwhelmingly intricate India is at heart, I’ve forfeited the vain expectation to somehow untangle the deep-rooted cultural complexities of the country and instead embrace them.