Bundi palace, Rajasthan
We negotiate with Indian Railways’ timetables and are bound by the seasons of the monsoons. We’re restricted by ice in Ladakh and by visas that threaten to expire before we’ve seen all we came for. I notice the passing of time through the filling of notebooks, the erosion of my stash of Ciproflaxin antibiotics, and the burning through of camera memory cards... Books newly filled with my scribbles and notes exceed a dozen and are scattered across two continents.
Sunrise at KanyamakariSometimes India feels worlds and lifetimes away from home; when there are dead bodies in the street, children doing back flips in busy intersections for pocket change, disfigured and dismembered beggars yanking at my arm, and people squatting to shit in full view downtown. The colours and smells are more vivid and plentiful, the hygiene archaic, the wealth disparity more violent, and the infrastructure more strained. But one on one, we are fundamentally not so different. Sometimes India feels remarkably like home does – just a bunch of people looking out for what’s important to them. Only there are more people but no toilet paper.
Fatima's: photo by Friskodude
Fatima’s [in Goa] is small, squished, understated, and serves fare that would easily go for twenty bucks a plate at home.... The shoebox is contained by cement walls covered with bright posters and packaging. In narrow benches, the locals sit thigh to thigh, sharing tables... we find the only free seat. Come, come, come! There’s room! We’ll share, if you don’t like my company than you can leave! We join Sunny, who sits on an inverted bucket with his back pressed to a tin wall. Three silver platters heaping with rice and fried mackerel are set between us, along with three oval trays filled with five or six smaller vegetable dishes. This is fish thali, and it is exquisite. Eat it with your hands or a spoon, mix the rice with the dhal and the bhajis, or eat them separate. We savour food and company. Sunny pours a thick curry over his rice and motions towards a narrow canvas sack. His flute, bamboo tuned to C. Between mouthfuls, ... he shares his insights into yoga and mosquitoes and music…. And when there are only bones and stray grains of rice left for the dogs to lick, he pulls out his instrument. He plays, he notices me watching his fingers. Was I watching his fingers? Yes I was, I was watching his pinky waver a trill as mine never could, no matter how many times Pachelbel’s Canon pounded out enthusiastically from the family room piano.
At Kanyamakari: Along with the sunrise, I learned: “Love marriages can be good – make sure he is rich and very handsome too.”