To clear up any confusion, this is JP writing. Those of you who get this joke know why I had to clarify.
India is a sensory overload for many reasons. It is hard to capture the essence of India because the moment you begin to describe what India is, India changes shape in your hands. The smells that were so distinctly Indian, the sounds that were the familiar symphony of the Indian traffic, the sheer volume of people dancing around you on the sidewalks… they all change quicker than you can say “snake charmer.”
So having said that, there a few specific examples of things that I like to carry in my heart that resonates with MY India. They are, for me, symbols of a layered and deep culture that I am very proud of. Here are a couple of photos that we snapped on a recent visit to Bangalore City Market that might help draw a picture for you.
Coconuts bring me great joy. They are used in a variety of ways in India. We use the branches and husks for fuel, the water for hydration, the flesh for cooking yummy foods, and the canopy for shade, but the real reason I love them so much is much simpler than that. I love coconuts because coconuts represent the tropics for me. I see a coconut tree and I know that I am in a warm place. I know that short sleeves and flip flops are welcomed here. I know that home is not too far away.
Spices and India seem to go hand in hand. This gentleman is offering us some saffron, the most expensive spice in the world. While this scene is quintessentially Indian, what I liked about this walk in the market were the comments being made as we walked by the various stalls. Both Amy and Katy wear toe-rings. While this is a fashion accessory in the United States, in most part of India, especially in the South, it denotes a married woman. As we walked through the market place, I hung back from the group to catch the conversation happening at the stalls (mostly because I love eavesdropping). One of my favorite exchanges happened by a flower stall where two shopkeepers who were setting up shop suddenly stopped to take in the “white-people” walking by. One guy laughingly told the other guys, “They have our Indian clothes on!” The other guy responded, “Wait! Look! They have toe rings on. Suppose they married a tamil guy?!” Loud laughs ensued. I walked by at this very moment and said in Tamil, “One of them did!” And I flashed him the biggest smile. It was beautiful!
And finally, I had to add this picture of my sister-in-law Amy. Yes, she has henna on her hands which is VERY Indian but mostly because I simply like this photo. 🙂