Few countries capture my intrigue like the country of India. I’ve visited at least four times. [I’m afraid I lost track.] Every time I go I’m yet again amazed by the diversity and the richness of the culture.. the art, architecture, music, and the food.. and of course the people. I’ve never seen so much beauty and color – starkly contrasted with so much squalor and filth. The Taj Mahal.. a beautiful marble building with intricate carvings and inlaid precious stones: a tomb for a ruler. As you walk out into the streets you pass entire families living in the median, with bricks to mark off the rooms. Yet the colors! No matter how deep into the slums you go.. walking past mud pits with pigs wallowing in them as well as mothers trying to wash their children’s clothes.. you never cease to see color and beauty. A little girl runs past you with a garland of orange flowers around her neck, dangling over the dirtiest piece of clothing you could imagine a child wearing. You look over at the mother – underneath the dirt and stains on her sari there is detail and beauty and color.. so much color! Bright greens and purples and oranges and yellows and pinks and blues and .. on and on.. everywhere you look.
You walk past a job site.. there are more men than shovels, so they’ve rigged up a rope to the front of the shovel, allowing two men to use it at once.. one pulling and the other digging.
Then you stop at a street vendor’s little dirty shop, oozing with the fragrance of burning incense, so strong it takes you a moment to catch your breath. Just as you catch it, it is nearly taken away by the incredible artwork laid out in front of you – hand carvings so delicate and intricate they would sell for 10 times more in the U.S. than the vendor is trying to get you accept. He then takes you to the back and again, the colors! Fabrics upon fabrics, so beautifully woven and designed, so full of color..
Back on the street you see a little girl dancing to her older brother playing on his drum. You stop open mouthed – the girl is gracefully moving her body in positions somewhere between yoga and gymnastics, and so smoothly you’d think she was made of rubber. The song stops and they hold out their very dirty little hands begging you for money. You could literally go broke here – every time you leave your hotel you are hounded by countless beggars, pointing to their mouths and crying “Kahna!” (food)
A splash of bright orange catches your eye and you turn to see a Sadhu- a traveling holy man. You nearly gag by the sight of the long, un-cut, un-washed hair, matted and dangling to his waist. You turn and try to cross the street.. a lot harder than it looks. No one observes any sort of traffic law.. and a two way street turns into a horrifying maze of five lane traffic going in all sorts of directions.. dodging slow-moving rickshaws and cows. And pedestrians? You just jump and run and dodge and pray you won’t get hit.