Equal and Opposite
The weather is hot and sticky, but with enough of a cool breeze every few hours to keep it fresh. Delhi is unexpectedly lush and green with parks and tree lanes dotting the city. The food is — exceptional. Everything is spicy, but just within the border of palatable. We drink water out of big beautiful clay pots and on our first night when we moved from the hotel to the venue, we slept in tents and had bucket showers. The mosquitoes love us in the evening when the thick air cools down at the end of the day.
I love this country. Delhi is so different to Pune. It’s much bigger and cleaner, there is less obvious poverty in the roads we’ve been in. It is bursting with life and colour and smells that have been painted with layers and layers of scents. Like a painting with colours that have blended together and they form a brown with a hint of yellow or blue or green.
The more I am here, the stranger London becomes. I have not yet met someone living here who is asleep inside. Perhaps it’s just the places here we’ve been. Underneath the life filled world that is here are still massive corporations providing employment for hundreds of thousands. Cheap labour to one is employment to the other.
The first time I arrived in India last year, I landed at Mumbai’s airport. It with flooded with people, mostly men. There was pushing and grabbing and shouting and staring. Landing in Delhi was like landing in Joburg. Big, beautifully finished, working systems, polite, orderly, shiny and only intentional evidence to show that it is no longer where we left. Local faces on posters welcoming guests, poster boards boasting sites and statistics to, familiar Hollywood faces on huge screens selling perfume, it’s so familiar and foreign at the same time.
Walking out of the airport into the Indian air, was just the same. I would come here over and over again just for that moment and for the first breath of this country after having been away. It’s thick and full and floods the system.
I feel safer riding tuk tuks and taxis and driving here than I do anywhere else in the world. It is a chaordic world here and the life on the roads flows. Everyone is wide awake and fully responsive, there is no road rage or anger, there is just movement.
The markets are so full of colour, the fabrics, the stitching, the variety — it’s difficult to imagine someone walking through and not being drawn into a stall to touch the silks, smell the wool, stroke the cashmere against a cheek. Like in South Africa, the craftsmanship and the artistry is exceptional. Fine sculptures, paintings, stitching, that don’t live anywhere else in the world other than with people who have fallen in love with this place and have been lucky enough to bring goods home with them.
So many things are offered, discounts negotiated, taxi rides suggested. It’s such an experience of boundaries and assertiveness. I wish I could be like I am here, when I’m somewhere else. I feel so at ease here. I don’t miss the false politeness that I often notice in more Western Cultures.
There doesn’t seem to be a word for no here. To every question and request the answer is yes or a polite head shake, even when the real answer is no. Time is bent here and things change before, during and after when they were supposed to be. I love it. It’s such a practice of letting go, because it gets to a point when there is nothing that can be done and that meet with it and go with it.
We’ve rushed to be so many places on time to get somewhere else and then waited for over an hour. Or rushed to a meeting, only to learn it’s been cancelled. Or been invited out for a meal, only to stop at 4 places on the way.
I understand why people come here to find themselves, but more I understand why people come here to forget a part of themselves that isn’t needed and that they no longer want.
October is a perfect time to come. It’s warm, but there is enough of a cool breeze to want to be outdoors, rather than the desperation for airconditioning I remember from my last time here.
I love this country, I love that it is everything, that it cannot be described or pinned down, that it is a living breathing paradox of all things. For everything there is, there isn’t, for all that exists, it doesn’t, for everything experienced, there is the equal and opposite experience right with within itself. Perhaps like us too.