I sit and observe my surroundings through a window in Alton, Hampshire. Streets are unusually barren for this time of day. Spring sheepishly begins to poke it’s head from around the corner, surprised and confused at our current circumstances. A magnolia begins to shoot her colourful display of pink and white blossoms as a nation prepares for lockdown. Having recently returned from India, I am currently perched somewhere between a dream and reality as I attempt to put my journey into words.
I feel that I would be doing India an injustice, stabbing her in the back and portraying a western lie by attempting to summarise her mindful chaos in some kind of structured blog post. When you type the word structure into google you get 'the arrangement and relations between the parts or elements of something complex'. Type in the word complex into google and you get ‘consisting of many different and connected parts’ - somewhere between these two answers could answer the grandest question: what the hell is India all about?!
After three long weeks that felt more like three long months, and with hardly any time to write down the dramatic and diverse lifestyle that Indians indulge in every day, I decided to take my notebook to a nearby window overlooking the golden fort of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan. The fort was breathtaking; golden bricks were stacked high enough to imagine the gods and the late afternoon sun seemed to feed it character and drunken elegance. As I observed the chaos below, I found myself writing some form of disjointed poem...
Indias mindful chaos,
Tuktuks pass banyan trees overhanging lovers.
Sunsets hanging in velvet baskets.
Curious eyes from passers by,
male camaraderie over boiling chai.
Time has existed differently here,
rustic paradise with real life angels.
A white horse ponders his future,
Indias chaotic normality.
Come and have what your heart desires,
dancers, dealers and DIY deep fat fryers.
Was this my mind's attempt at finding some order in all this romantic mess?
India: the provocateur of Asia, lures you into its marvellous display of diversity. A pure spectacle of civilisation living (almost) in spiritual harmony. Yet within this triumph, lies cracks of a confronting nature. Social hierarchy is extremely evident wherever you find yourself in India: rank and wealth determine the quality of life that each individual can hope to attain... and this individual is almost certainly a male.
Another crack shows its ugly face: misogyny. In a nation driven by hierarchy, power and toxic masculinity, where groups of men gather in confined spaces like swarms of locusts - unsettled and untrustworthy - it’s no surprise such behaviour takes place. With the Indian government snaking its way further and further right, the dark clouds seem to endlessly cover the future for women.
A recent article on the BBC highlighted a horrific yet relevant example of this ingrained disrespect for women. In 2012 an Indian student was raped on a moving bus in Delhi and died as a result of her injuries. Mukesh Singh, along with three other men, were executed for their horrific crime. Singh showed no remorse when interviewed by the BBC suggesting that "a decent girl won't roam around at nine o'clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy," he went on to say "when being raped, she shouldn't fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they'd have dropped her off after 'doing her', and only hit the boy," So what’s being done to change this psychotic way of thinking? Little. Are cows more respected than women? Yes.
Although India boasts this unforgivable way of thinking, the finger shouldn't stop pointing there. India’s “this is our culture and we don’t care” attitude is unnerving - but it is not a denial. Which could easily describe the western approach of dismissing our internal and external misogyny while continuing to live in a world of fine dining, whining and whinging at our first world problems on a private balcony in Monaco.
With a rather dull picture painted so far, let me colour the backdrop with India's expressive and unique beauty. It’s safe to say that my journey in India wouldn’t have been so smooth (I use smooth lightly) without the pure generosity I received from so many people throughout the country. Just getting from A to B involved several different forms of transport, and you would never quite know if your desired destination would behold you at the end - but 9 times out of 10, there It would be. To gaze out the window in one of India’s mystical trains for just a few seconds could leave you marvelling in the diversity of nature and colours for hours, whilst the call for chai would echo somewhere in the back of your mind.
You simply cannot resist the invitation India lies at your feet, the moment you step within her grasp. An invitation to mischievous games and magical encounters. You must pipe up your shoulders, roll up your sleeves and prepare to get dirty. It’s not just streets lined with cow manure, rugged shops and restaurants (like some people might make it out to be). India smirks at you, right eye winking with a childish giggle, sweetened by culinary delights. Colours roam free, with women weaving and waving their long saris, as spiritual men in orange and whites observe your footsteps with curious eyes. Shaking your head like a dog shedding water, you can try to clear your head, yet the colours will remain vibrant in your mind, forever.
Picture 1 - Colours of the mind
Picture 2 - The culinary craft of the Dosa
Picture 3 - Pure beauty
Picture 4 - Weeping figs overhanging lovers
Picture 5 - Morning rituals
Picture 6 - Silence briefly hangs above Mumbai
Picture 7 - Holi
Picture 8 - The sacred banyan tree
Picture 9 - Routine