Monday, February 11, 2013
This is India
Everything turns black. The walls of the ashram are no longer a vibrant yellow, but now a hazy black. In creeps the chill air of a cool Indian night along with the sounds of insects buzzing, mischievous monkeys playing, and even a sullen moo from a sacred cow breeches this crisp night. The gecko scurries from a once hot light bulb to the warm comforts of the curtains, the movement of which sends a chill down my spine—I did not want this creature to continue its search for comfort…saying as though the curtains dangled ever so closely above my bed. I pulled the quilt closer to my face, the aroma of which was not all too pleasant, but the warmth was what my body required. “So this is India…”, I thought to myself as I gazed into the blackness of a room without power. Suddenly the brightness of light filled the room, prismatic yellows reflecting into my retinas. A buzzing noise surfaced from somewhere on the floor as the heater purred itself to life—heat once again moving slowly across the tiled floor. The heat, now filling the entire room, softly caresses my skin, and begins to seduce my body into slumber. My final thoughts linger on my tongue—India…what is India? But the heat kisses my lips and whisps me into strange dreams…
The streets of India are crowded with the wild rage of vehicles simply making their way to work, but within the streets—within the rickshaw, whose interior design cost 10,000 rupees (a good price but still good quality), lies the chaos of India. “This is India.” Rajak the rickshaw driver says in English as he maneuvers his way in and out of traffic. We drive, it seems, without care, passing trucks whose exterior is decorated with English cautions of “use horn” and English branded advertisements for Pepsi. All of which are in strong contrast to the sign that ornaments the light post reading once again in English, “Do not honk if you love peace.” Horns blast through the air, diminishing anyone’s desire for peace—to the Indians, peace seems to be only a mere suggestion. “This is India.” Rajak the rickshaw driver repeats. His English, he says, he learned from the streets—from people like us he says. Somewhat broken, his English words roll off the roof of his mouth in a semi-understandable manner, but it is through these words he is able to communicate with me stories of Indian traditions—all embedded with personal accounts of love and tragedy of an arranged marriage his family and culture required. The rickshaw temporarily stalls at a street corner—Rajak apologizes saying “sorry sorry”. But as we wait for the engine to start an influx of people gather around the rickshaw—they gather around the color of my skin. “Madame…Madame.” They plead, motioning with their hands want of money or food. Their clothes are tattered and hair is snarled with dirt. The naked bottom of a baby is visible as the mother clutches tightly around the child’s waist again motioning with her free hand—touching my white skin—for money--for food she says in English then continues speaking in a foreign tongue. The engine jolts to life, sending us on our way—the words money, money slowly fading away. “This is India.” Rajak states.
I awake, somewhat disturbed from my dreams, but still questioning “what is India?” Later that day, my life is filled with the smiles of Indian children. I am pulled in every direction by small hands eager to play or pose for a photo. “Madameji…play…photo.” They repeat over and over again. Their diction is mainly Hindi, but they are learning English through a Hindi medium school. Every once in a while I hear, “hello, my name is…” and “how are you?” or my favorite, “I like your cheeks.”—the children smile pointing at their cheeks. The children fill my life with happiness and accept me as part of their family. To them I am not an outsider—I am a sister—I am a best friend. I then realize, through their broken English words what India is. To me, India is an explosion of culture, life, and progression. India is a society where new ideologies are being adapted—new ideologies like the English language is used to educate, to produce, to gain profit, to climb the social ladder. English in India is a new form of English. It is not American-English nor British-English, it is India’s English—a mixture of English, Hindi and other local dialects. Indian English is a way to communicate culture, both modern and traditional, but most importantly Indian English is a way in which you are accepted into a society—or more so into a family. To truly know what India is, you must be a part of India. You do so by becoming part of a family, and for India, they welcome you with open and hospitable hands to learn, but more importantly to love. To me, “this is India.”