So I’m in India.. My first impression is that I love it. Or I did love it. Or hopefully I still love it..
It’s dirty, noisy, dusty, smelly and most of all chaotic beyond anything I’ve experienced before. And that’s all good, that’s the part I love. I’ve been soaking up all the millions of impressions that hit me every minute, trying to keep up with this hurricane of life here.
I’ve already met a lot of people, done some sightseeing, shopped a little and went to a movie screening about Varanasi, another place I want to visit here. And it’s just been 3 days.
The thing is, the attention I get is overwhelming. Walking down the street, everybody will stop what they’re doing to look at me instead. Some will join me and ask questions and even change their own direction in order to follow me and on the metro I’m being studied head to toe. I’ve tried to be fair to everyone, placing myself in the middle so no-one was cheated from the sight of me :P The metro is so fortunately planned here that the two front cars are for women only – we can see all the way down through the train though and thus the men can see us as well, and the mens section is crowded.
With this being the center of attention, I haven’t met any real hostility and no bad things has happened but I’ve come to notice the difference in how I’m being looked at, how I’m being met.
The majority I’m pretty sure don’t even see me. They see a tourist, a wealthy European, a white person, a blonde woman, a person they want something from. My money, my time, my love, they just want what I have maybe without knowing what that is, if there even is something to have.
On the opposite side there’s the people who demonstratively are letting me know that they don’t want anything from me. They will look at me and when I notice, they will hold my look for just a couple of seconds and then dismiss my presence with a kind of arrogant attitude. I don’t meet as many of them but when I do the impact is equally challenging to digest.
And then there’s the few who meet me as who I am. Just another human being who happens to cross their path, not yet determined, not yet labeled. They meet my eyes with openness, with curiosity, sometimes with a slight indifference but as soon as we look at each other, I’m being recognized as being me. Nothing more, nothing less. A person who holds all the potential of being either a friend or an enemy or of simply continuing to be a complete stranger. But right in that moment, neither of us know and we simply recognize each other as part of the same family, just human beings who happens to share a brief moment. Whenever it happens, it makes me feel incredibly grateful.
We all do this all the time. We label each other. We put a limit to the truth about the people we meet and by that we limit our world, the potential of our lives.
Even though this is something I’ve been aware about for a long time, experiencing it so intensely here in India has really put it into perspective.
Yesterday it made me sick, literally. I got the worst headache (still have it) and nausea and I was so exhausted and drained that I went home around 4.30pm and then hid out in the safety of my room for the rest of the day,
feeling so alone and sad. All I wanted to do was escape, get out of the city and go somewhere secluded and safe from all the people.
I still want to escape but today I’m going to meet the world again and try to see if I can somehow turn it around. I need to find a way to protect myself without running away. To not let the attention drain me. To allow myself to continue being me.
Wish me luck!
PS – Here’s my neighborhood in Delhi