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No thanks to Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherazade I am in India.

“Disgusting” spat a bigots description of Sultan Shahryār’s polygamy. “OK disagree if you wish”, I said defensively. “But why such hate? It’s only music.” His fury extended to a culture he knew nothing about.

I was determined to journey with an open heart. Perhaps I defended what I didn’t know to freely. I came with no opinions.

So what is India? An impossible question, but here goes:

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“Arey dost!” India is thirty rickshaw wallahs demanding your attention in your first hour off the train… and after the 15th time one morning I finally snapped “Ex –Er – Cise!” with exaggerated gestures. I had enough.

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Real India is the mothers cutting subze. The delicious taste chai elaichi or the disgusting sugar tea bag swill served on trains that somehow is called tea. India is the politicians wife who wants prestige and accuses your landlord of renting to “foreigners whoring around.” (I suppose she didn’t know I’m celibate).

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Yes, India confronts you: An outback loving Aussie my nations population sits at Mumbai airports doorstep! Yet half Mumbai is homeless.

Yet in every shock you find a beauty to balance it. Diverse India is a macrocosm of what I now believe is a universal truth: for every good there is an equal challenge. My own life reflected this macrocosmic Indian expression.

The gut wrenching grab of stereotypes is not the real India: of starving beggars child hung limp, women washing at dawn, or children at school 6 days a week.

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The Real India is in the smiles in the side streets. A times at times India is the annoying hunt for foreign cash. But I remember most down by Moti Talab the husband who called me from the street, insisting on chai, with wife and kids, and refusing any offer I pay for it; the soldier who, finding m hopelessly lost in dead end lanes on the Igdah hills, puts me on his bike to a central road; the man who drives me to a bank, or the family who see me, a total stranger, safe from a concert.

Hospitality, that is the real India.

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