Transportation, Romanticism and Criticism, November 2006

November 5,

Dear all,

Today, as I often do, I took the bus home and was just struck, as I often am on the bus or simply out on the roads, by India.  Imagine that.  Struck by India.  Well, first of all, let me say that while I was waiting for the bus from Katpadi to Kasam, a motorbike came up next to us carrying an entire family.   Just imagine that in the US or Australia – a motorcycle as the mode of transportation for a whole family.  We don’t even use a car for a whole family, much less a motorcycle.   Anyway, two little kids straddled the front of the bike with their dad encircling them with his arms to hold the steering wheel.  And then behind the dad, the mother in her sari, sat sideways with her feet resting on the bar set just there for this purpose.   On her lap was another child whom she held tightly.

On the topic of transportation, I ended up climbing into an auto rickshaw instead of a bus.  This is a small, three-wheeled vehicle that looks like it should fit 5 people at a squeeze.   We sat 10 – the driver and two other men in the front, then four of us women in the back seat with another woman seated on the bar between the front and the back seat and two men in the far back where one would put bags and such.  10 of us.  Smile.  And we were all so glad to get that ride to Kasam instead of waiting ages and ages for the bus.

It got me thinking.  As did the way into Vellore, passing by a stretch of land that is piled with refuse – paper, plastic, organic waste and who knows what else.   Today there was also the stiff corpse of a dog, feet outstretched, looking as if it had, while standing upright, frozen and then simply toppled over, its limbs locked in position.   Some water buffalo walked beside the rubbish pile and as I looked, one stopped and nibbled at something.  At a bus stop a few moments later, I saw a tiny black puppy to which noone paid any heed.   It stood looking, as though for someone or something, then trotted between the legs of the men around it.  Smile.   It was so cute and small and innocent.  And all alone.

My favorite part of the bus ride is the stretch where we go over the bridge leaving Katpadi and entering Vellore.   The river underneath the bridge is wide and almost always completely dry.  Today there is water, not flowing, but water accumulated from the good rains we’ve been having.   In the distance is another old bridge, beautiful with curved arches beneath which people walk or cycle.  I imagine it used to be a train bridge, but I’m not sure.  In the distance on the opposite side from the bridge, beyond the clusters of houses and coconut palms, rise the hills, now monsoon season green with their fortress-like rock formations.   So beautiful, always calling, inviting me to visit and explore them.  Perhaps someday.  Sometimes there are water buffalo walking through the river bed, but not today.   Today there are a couple of men, I wonder where they’re going.  But not for too long, because there’s so much to see.   So much to see.

At times I feel like there are not enough words or enough time to describe everything.  I wonder if the U.S. is like this, so full of wondrous things to be seen, heard, described, but I just don’t notice it or if there is something fundamentally different about this place.  I’m leaning toward the latter.   For why else would a writer such as Salman Rushdie, whose books drip with colors and sounds, tastes and smells, come from India?  There must be something…..

I was also thinking about how I am trying not to romanticize India.  Perhaps a bit hypocritical after a paragraph like the last.   But I am.  I am trying not to romanticize or exoticize it.  I’m also trying not to judge it.   I am simply trying to tell it, to somehow capture pieces of my experience here and share them with you.  Again, this email is getting long.  That seems to be a tendency of mine.  I hope you all are well.  And I guess it doesn’t really matter when this gets to you.   It’s not really a dated message.  It’s just a message from here from any day.  Smile.

Peace and much love,

Being and watching and listening (in India),

Thandiwe

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About Thandiwe

Hopeful cynic, creative, seriously silly, lover of people and places, hypocrite, third-culture kid, queer, life-long learner, white woman, Christ follower, outdoor enthusiast: I am a seeker of justice and truth who has re-found my spiritual home in progressive Christianity. I serve as the Associate Pastor at a small Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregation near the mountains of Colorado where I live with my beloved.
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