Remembering India

“Everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it.” — Rabindranath Tagore

I remember is a great way to jump-start a writing session.  This one about India took 15 minutes.  In looking at photos afterwards, I can see some details are off or conflated with other experiences, but who cares.

IMG_1002.JPG1. I remember focusing on Ganesha – orange and yellow – on a small card hanging from the rearview mirror. The taxi was black, inside and out.

2. I remember feeling as if I was in a small dark fishbowl, looking out on faces and all kinds of vehicles pressed up against the taxi:   a motorcycle to my right, a bus to my left with way too many people (they seemed stacked on each other) and a large dump truck in front with the request “PLEASE HONK” on its bumper.


3. I remember thinking the admonition “PLEASE HONK” was amusing in the midst of stopped, compressed traffic.  Little did I know that “PLEASE HONK” is incredibly useful on the “back roads” of India, essentially equivalent to “Hold on Passenger, I’m passing a big truck whose driver cannot see behind him and I can’t really see around him but I’m going for it anyway.”  If necessary, 2-lane roads miraculously widen into 3 lanes, the middle for passing.

4. I remember taking a picture with my iPhone 3, my camera for the trip, from within the taxi and posting it on Facebook (back when I was using Facebook), saying “I will never complain about Bay Area traffic again!”

IMG_1265.JPG5. I remember the dust, the heat – dry and humid at the same time, followed by the cool marble and diffused light of my host’s entryway.

6. I remember, within the first hours, sitting at the dining room table facing the end of the entryway, greeting guests as if I had been there for weeks.

7. I remember the meal on the road back from the Ajanta Caves.  Sitting in a white plastic chair looking out at the horizon and seeing landscape go on forever. In the foreground was a family, each one dressed in white.


8. I remember thinking this is the best meal ever – fried rice with vegetables cooked on an open-air grill with misshapen wok-shaped pans.  So soothing, no unusual spices, no meat for the fledging vegetarian with an uncooperative gut.  I just realized this is, 5 years later, my default meal for supper.


IMG_1102.JPG9. I remember the simple teaspoon in the bowl of seeds offered with the bill on a typical green and white slip.  My driver explained you chew the seeds.  Wanting to experience every custom, I took a spoonful only to be confronted with a rapidly drying clump of seed paste, semi-licorice tasting.  Where to delicately spit while being watched by the family all in white.  Thank goodness for paper napkins.

IMG_1249.JPG10. I remember the seller at the open air market, sitting among piles of vegetables in a natural (i.e., perfect) lotus position, counting out change.  Yoga is life, life is yoga.  The best teachers are not who you expect.