3.02.2011

MISSING INDIA


I miss most: the shrines everywhere; the animals everywhere; the color everywhere. Manhattan streets seem hushed to me now. I keep expecting to see a cow or a goat or a donkey amble up, brushing past me, gently nudging me out of the way. There is so much room in these city streets for people and animals; where once I found the city noise and crowds an assault, now they seem empty, a waste of space.

And perhaps, having all those dumb beasts around, makes people a bit more careful about how they move too--though you wouldn't think so from the frenetic pace of the traffic in Indian cities and villages. All those dogs on the loose, too. Our friends there told us they wouldn't dream of letting dogs in the house; they're dirty. The dogs are kept communally. Everyone puts out dishes of food, leaving them on carts and on the ground by their doors. Any creature who comes along hungry is welcome to the kitchen scraps. We rarely saw a starving dog; the cows snuffle through piles of food, daintily plucking stray blades of grass--a real treat, you don't see much of it. Sometimes the cows are tethered, if they belong to someone who will use their milk. Hardly anyone eats beef (sacred cow, holy cow)--or pork. Hogs run nimbly through the alleys, rooting through heaps of garbage, helping themselves to choice morsels. The animals have as much right to the street as the people, somehow "right of way" is established to everyone's mutual convenience and safety.


And the shrines, everywhere, traditional as well as modern, almost minimalist. What does it mean about the texture of daily life that every morning, on the way to work or school, people buy garlands of roses and marigolds, and drape them over their favorite god figures. They pause a moment, bow, touching their foreheads to the ground or the plinth on which the god sits. 


They might leave food, or honey, or light some incense. However people choose to honor their gods, the point is that they stop to do so, throughout the day--and somehow, that makes everything feel gentler. It seems insane to say that, given how rowdy and rambunctious life is in Indian cities, and yet, there it is. There is something softer about it too.


And the color. I miss the vibrant splashes of pinks, oranges, golds, and greens. I am not exactly doing my part to bring that exuberance of hue back into these city streets. 

I've slipped right back into my preferred camouflage of subdued colors--with the usual twist of citrus colored pashmina at my neck. But isn't that navy blue and yellow combination electric?! I didn't bring home a lot of new clothes; I couldn't handle the rigor and speed of Extreme Shopping. At times I feel I have too much stuff and don't need more. But I dislike sanctimony. And I know, something soon will turn my head.

It will have to be the memory of that riot of color that sustains me until the daffodils here begin clamoring for attention.

28 comments:

sarahsbooks said...

I've loved reading about your colorful travels, during this long white New England winter. Thank you for writing.

Madgew said...

All true for me when I went there 5 years ago. I came home and minimalized my life. I now have my Ganesha and Buddha's on altars and I see my India everyday in my painting and in my life. Thanks for your thoughts as they reflected what I thought as well.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

It's always been the colours of India that I've longed to see up close. This beautiful post shows me why.

Barbara said...

Oh my God, that ox with the amazing ears! I love him!

SweetRetreat said...

Well, the idea of ambling, gently nudging, brushing animals on the streets sounds rather nice ... except for the problem you do not mention ... the poop. Well-fed dogs on the loose ... could be messy. What of the smells?

Your photos are amazing, the colors a jolt during these long winter days.

Dominique C. said...

I am very much missing India too, Dominique! I can't get used to life back here. Even in the short time I was there, somehow I became infused with the motion, color and vibrancy and now that is all missing--as if I've gone to the moon (the moon being New England)...
Most of all I missed the heart energy of India--people there smile from the heart, and I feel very shut out in the cold back "home":)

Karena said...

Dominique the color is amazing! The blue and yellow, perfection. The Indian women walking all so unique... I love that!

Do come and enter my Artful Offering!

xoxo
Karena
Art by Karena

Anita Singh Soin said...

'Athiti devo bhavah' (The Guest is God) so come back once more as our guests... all Dominiques, friends, family and more...

Talking of colour, 20th March is our festival of Holi or of colour... and India is a riot then.

profA said...

Just the tonic for March. Thank you for these sun drenched photos from your travels last month. I hope you are planning to publish them in book format. 'Twould be lovely to sit with it on a rainy/snowy winter's day and be transported.

Stephanie said...

We went to Central Highlands of Mexico in November. My first words upon opening the door into our home? "It looks so bare in here!"

Even though there is art on the walls, an accent color on one wall, a fireplace, furniture with fabric throws, a couple of cats, etc.

david terry said...

Dear Ms. Browning,

From what I've just read on a friend's Facebook posting, you wouldn't "miss" India quite so fully if you lived in Chapel Hill, NC.

Yesterday, my college advisor's widow (who's retired to this area) was driving to a friend's house in the country, rounded a curve, and came smack dab up against an utterly ENORMOUS, completely white Brahmin bull that was standing at a cowgate crossing along with a few other, suddenly small-seeming "regular" cows. All of them had gotten out of someone's field. She immediately took a photograph with the handy-dandy cell-phone her sons have forced on her and posted it on Facebook. She claims that, if she simply told folks she'd seen this, she'd be put in a home.

A white brahmin bull (the thing really does look to be the size of a Volkswagen van) is a startling sight in the middle of muddy rural North Carolina on the first of March.

Level Best as Ever,

David Terry

karensandburg said...

you describe a soulfulness about their daily life that in spite of miserable physical conditions, helps them find a way to happiness. the ritualistic act of placing flowers on shrines and the co-existing with animals on the street sounds very slow love to me. seems like the people are more in touch with spiritual teachings in their every day life, rather than in the abstract, as so many religious americans seem to practice it. the observation that the people smile from the heart makes me think that they may reside closer to that organ than we do...

it's all very perplexing and thought provoking -- thanks for throwing it out there for us all to talk about, think about...

pve design said...

when are you planning your next sojourn?
pve

Athena said...

So loved your stories & pictures of India. After my first trip, I thought I'd never return but it haunts you and you will return... and you will find yet more beauty among the roaming cows, animals, and the sounds & scents of each town or passing village.

Athena said...

p.s. next time, wear a sari. It's one of the most lush feelings on your body & changes the way you hold & move your body. Thanks again!

Warren said...

Help, where is spring?! It's 10 degrees cooler than average. Your colorful images were just what I needed here during another windy, rainy, gray day in Seattle. My English Setter gets me out now so I feel it; not just look at it.
Your photos make me want to take off the Wellies and break out my Hermes bow ties and step out for those putines.

Warren said...

Talking about monetizing your blog, you may want to consider leading weekend retreats combining your Slow Love with photography at some retreat center / spa. You'd probably fill the space easily with 15-20 folks. Sadly for me it would probably turn into a 'girl thing.'

david terry said...

P.S......regarding that earlier posting about an elderly friend's surprisingly-local encounter with a white brahmin bull the size of a volkswagen van?

I made a single phone call to one of my country friends and discovered that the bull's quite renowned in the county.

It's the happy and huge result of Texans' crossbreeding White Brahmins with "native" Texas longhorns. Hence, the enormous floppy ears AND the four-foot-wide (I may be underestimating from the photograph I was sent) rack of horns.

All in all?....a markedly impressive animal. I'd build an altar to it (or write a big check, or whatever was required) to avoid a confrontation with it.

In any case, turns out the thing is only half-Indian. The other half is pure Tex-ass. ...And didn't you, Ms. Browning, used to be the editor of Texas Magazine?....in which case you don't need me to tell you that Texas is as replete with Betcha-never-seen-one-of-THESE-before-(!) wonders as India is.

And before anyone jumps on me for being mean about Texass, I should emphasize that my grandmother and her two sisters (respectively named David, James, and Ezra Fudge) were all Texans.

Bemusedly,

David Terry

Beth said...

Thank you for all the beautiful pictures of India. Ive always wanted to go there and Ive been living vicariously through the beautiful photographs from your trip.

Jim said...

When there is such massive disparities in lifestyle (having indoor plumbing and laundry vs. washing your rags in river water) it's no wonder the bottom does just about anything to alleviate their desperation. This includes saying just about anything, even if it's self-denigrating, for a buck. Or for hope of a buck to come, or a rupee or whatever. Not just parroting, selling organs, prostitutions, etc... Maybe that's why there has to be an assurance that there'll always be a bottom, fueled by impossible impositions on nations and peoples, such that there'll always be bottomfeeders to talk for all poor people and talk against all poor people. Poor Them! Noble Us! Long live Coca Cola!

Vivien said...

Fascinating post, seeing the colours of India, and hearing about the animals.

This may seem a rather superficial comment, but I do think it's a shame that, in comparison to the womens' wonderfully colourful and aesthetic clothes, the men wear western clothes of boring jeans, trousers, shirts and T- shirts. As they say, "Man was born free but is everywhere in jeans." Here in Oxford, UK, there are tours round the Norman, medieval and 18th c. castle area. Some of the male guides wear simple 18th century costumes and they look so much better than in the usual garb of jeans/T-shirt, or boring old suit and tie! Admittedly the latter clothes are more practical for modern life, but I do think clothes for men based on simple traditional Indian tunics and trousers would make them look a lot more interesting - a bit of flow around the garments, clothes that would be interesting to draw or paint.

Cristina said...

I can easily believe this experience scarred your soul: in part with the sad, disturbing views, but in an other with all its gorgeous, unforgettable - & colourful! - differences.
(maybe you already know this chinese proverb: "He who returns from a journey, he's not the same as he who left")

William said...

@ david terry

That's a fascinating story about the white brahmin in North Carolina and thank you so much for the clarification post because your first comment left me perplexed. I have a suggestion. You have so many fascinating stories about your own life and your family and your travels and experiences why don't you start your own blog? Why just share these stories with the readers of Ms. Browning's blog? I think the world is waiting to hear from you. Just a thought.

Dominique said...

Please, William, please....don't encourage David Terry to go anywhere else! I love having your conversations here...!! Selfishly speaking, of course!

Christina, many thanks for the proverb....I so agree with that sentiment...Vivien, some of the men in India wear the beautiful long tunics, though the human population is the reverse of the bird world. The men's clothing is extremely subtly colored, though gorgeous--sort of the greige (David, you know that French color, grey and beige--pigeon's throat?) that one sees on a female cardinal...I have just started seeing the cardinals around again, so they are on my mind....I don't think Texas has quite the wonders that India does, but then again, as I recall being there, I was thunderstruck many times by various pasture sightings...and people sightings too.....Stephanie, very funny! How quickly one's eyes begin to crave color, like sugar for the body??? but healthier, no?

Dominique said...

Please, William, please....don't encourage David Terry to go anywhere else! I love having your conversations here...!! Selfishly speaking, of course!

Christina, many thanks for the proverb....I so agree with that sentiment...Vivien, some of the men in India wear the beautiful long tunics, though the human population is the reverse of the bird world. The men's clothing is extremely subtly colored, though gorgeous--sort of the greige (David, you know that French color, grey and beige--pigeon's throat?) that one sees on a female cardinal...I have just started seeing the cardinals around again, so they are on my mind....I don't think Texas has quite the wonders that India does, but then again, as I recall being there, I was thunderstruck many times by various pasture sightings...and people sightings too.....Stephanie, very funny! How quickly one's eyes begin to crave color, like sugar for the body??? but healthier, no?

Dominique said...

Warren, indeed, where is spring? I'm wondering the same thing, and will post on that next....love the Hermes ties, haul them out now, they'll brighten things up right away! Weekend retreats sound quite lovely right about now, but why just a girl thing? (I mean, besides the fact that we are better at self-compassion, talking, retreating into our feelings, and expressing them, and so on and so forth, however, I notice no problem on the part of men here being quite expressive....) PVEDESIGN no plans to return now, but hoping to do so soon....it does haunt me, as Athena said, and I really want to go back.. Sweet Retreat, yes indeed, it is a mess. And a smelly one, too. You have to watch every step. Luckily it wasn't too hot when I was there, so the fragrances weren't ripe....but you've got the idea....

Emom said...

Seems that they are living mindfully....smiles

Sudarshana said...

What a fabulously written post! I'm in Japan for 3 months this summer, interning and blogging and missing India (my home country) and I just googled 'missing India' and found this blog post. You have such a keen eye for detail, I could see, smell and almost feel each word and experience.

Thank you!