My Love and Hate Relationship With the Colorful India – A Story and Memory Postcards

As I move onto a new journey that takes me outside India for a couple of months (watch out for a more detailed post on Monday), I couldn’t help but reminisce about the places that I have lived in and visited in the last one year I have been in India.

India — a country with distinct religions from the ancient Hindu to the declining Zoroastrianism, with a myriad of languages and dialects from Konkani to Jarawa, with a plethora of geographies from fathomless deserts to treacherous glaciers, with a vast network from modern sea links to old hanging bridges, with a wide assortment of food from homely dal roti to mouth-watering, overnight-cooked chicken biryanis, with a range of commutes from rusted Hero bicycles, serene camels, and obedient bullock carts to fancy Rolls Royces, from peaceful Tamil marriages that are held for two hours during daylight to exciting Punjabi wedding functions sprawled over many days in luxurious hotels spread across India; we have it all.

This large and miscellaneous congregation of people — that India is — sometimes makes me proud, but sometimes the restrictions of this collectivist society suffocate me.

As a young girl in a middle-class Indian family, I never wondered that why was I not allowed to play badminton at my school when my brother could play cricket with his friends for hours. Or why my sister had to clean the house and cook and prepare to become a future wife while the women of the world were studying to become fashion designers or were strapping their backpacks to wade through the world.

But as I grew up, I started seeing the world and India in the light of my understanding and asked a lot of questions. Why can’t I go out with boys? Why can’t I live alone in an apartment? Why can’t I wear shorts and skirts on the street? Why can’t I take a few days off to enjoy life without feeling sinful? Why can’t I see myself not getting married or buying a house or bearing babies? Why can’t I leave a corporate job and do what I want to do? Why can’t I reject a guy even though his receding hairline reminds me of the craters on the moon?

Sorry, the last one was a cheap shot. But you know what I mean.

Also Read: Indian Marriage Conundrum – How I Hold My Ground as an Unmarried 30–Year–Old Woman.

Then I traveled to other continents such as South America, Europe, the UK, and saw their culture from up close.

I sipped cappuccinos in Paris streetside cafes where no one wondered why was I alone or stared at me. I hung out with seventy-year-old South-American, unmarried women who were enjoying their life without having to answer their families that why were they not settled yet. I drank beer and talked openly about my relationships and writing dreams with my host mothers on remote islands.

I walked alone on strange, deserted lanes while trying to figure out my way back to the place I could call home.

I felt liberated, independent, and unjudged.

For once, I could decide for myself. I thrilled at my independence, but this freedom also meant that I had to take responsibility for my mistakes. I didn’t have to answer anyone, but I couldn’t get lost.

And that is when I started developing a love and a hate relationship with India.

When I was eating bread with cheese in South America, I wanted to come back and dash through the streets to stuff my mouth with spicy pani-puri. When I was scared to hold the rabbit-like children of couples outside India, I craved to cuddle the cute Indian infants whose parents swell with pride when I pull their baby’s cheeks in public. When I was stuck at international borders, I gazed at my passport and wished that I was back in India where I could travel to the desert of Spiti or the jostling Mumbai street, and no one would dare ask me anything.

And then I would come back from my trips looking forward to the India that I had described to the foreigners and the one I had dreamed about. But the high-spiritedness of the shining sun, the casualness of the people, and the cultural rainbows of India usually drowned in the rigid customs, the stares of strange men, and the fight for the right to design your own life.

Also Read: An Open Letter From a Privileged Indian Woman to India and The World

Who knows if it was the cab driver in Munnar who wanted to sleep in my room or the guy on the river Mandovi who asked how much I charge creeped me out. But I don’t travel that much in India that I would like to on my own. That would change when I come back. For I want to explore the frightening Himalayas, participate in the native festivals of Orissa and Bihar, go to the eco-friendly villages in Kerala, drive through the coastal fishing villages of Maharashtra, and explore the wilderness of the Satpura national park. The list is long…

As someone who has never believed in the concept of a country or a native, who thinks that the whole world is ours and its people alike, I never hesitate to go out of India for months or come back and stay in a room in the crowded Bengaluru for a year to get things done. It is all about priorities, I guess.

Also Read: Why Do I Travel and Live a Ready to Leave Life

 But India would still be the place of my birth, whose muddy lanes I rode on my Ladybird bicycle while growing up, whose people ranging from Muslims to Sikhs to Christians to Hindus were the first one I became friends with, whose rich curries and homemade kachoris always left me craving for more, and whose first rain’s petrichor left me gazing at the green foliage of my garden for hours.

So this time, while leaving India for a while, I share these memories that hang on the string of my life and make it beautiful, chaotic, vigilant, and proud.

 

beautiful pictures of India
Exploring the Golconda fort in Hyderabad.

Come, let me take you on this journey.

 

beautiful pictures of India
A visit to the chaat shop in my small hometown in North India is mandatory. I grew up indulging my taste buds in spicy street food at this place.

 

beautiful pictures of india
Backwaters, Alleppey, Kerala. It is my favorite state in India, and I don’t see that changin any soon.

 

A man carries a coracle on his back, then puts it on top of an auto rickshaw, then pushes it into the water, and then takes us across the Hogenakkal falls. Men and nature, at their best.

 

beautiful pictures of India
My favorite, paper dosa. Size matters. 😉

 

beautiful pictures of India
The colorfully dressed daughter of my cleaning lady. She is a hearty angel and doesn’t let me go without taking a chocolate.

 

beautiful pictures of india
Lovely camels. They were our ride for two days in the remote dunes near Jaisalmer, and they didn’t complain even once, neither when they ran, nor when they walked. My ride’s name was Michael Jackson 🙂

 

beautiful pictures of India
A temple we found while on one of our drives to Panchapalli dam in Karnataka. Buildings are much prettier from behind sprawling trees.

 

beautiful pictures of India
Hogenakkal falls. The naked men, the massages, and the art of doing nothing.

 

Talkative Parrots. In a park in Ahmedabad.

 

beautiful pictures of india
The roaring Hogenakkal falls. This beauty is a four-hour drive from Bengaluru. Though most of the place was used as a plastic dump, if you walk away from the main entrance and take a coracle to go to the other end of the falls(as shown in the picture), you would find them in their raw beauty. There is a lot to see and experience a bit away from the main tourist area.

 

Two monks in the Namdroling monastery(before Coorg.) They walked together in rain under one umbrella and showed us the way to the exit, but not without smiling first.

 

The sprawling mountains near Coorg. Raja’s seat is a touristic place, but if you climb it and just wander into the mountains a bit ahead, there would be nobody. The trail isn’t marked and its all jungle, but a nice escape from crowd and good for unrestricted views. Or if you have to pee in the surreal nature 😉

 

In a farmhouse in Coorg. The bright rose and the tall betel nut trees make for a good photo. Don’t they?

 

Workers of a rubber plantation in a national park near Thrissur. Their day was about to end, and they were more than happy to be clicked by us.

 

beautiful pictures of India
On a rainy day, in a quaint restaurant in Madikeri, Coorg. rice balls, rice cakes, and rice chappatis with chicken and pork curry. That was one of the last time I ate non-vegetarian food.

 

haha. Near my house in Bangalore. What else did you expect? Whenever I look at the stray cows and bulls staring into nothingness, I feel at peace. A peace that no one can take away from me.

 

beautiful pictures of India
In the colorful Laad bazaar in Hyderabad. You would think that you can find some men’s clothes in the market, but alas.

 

beautiful pictures of India
From my parents’ house’s rooftop in my hometown. A full moon deserves a picture, no matter where you are.

 

beautiful pictures of India
The queen herself. The Charminar on the independence day, lit up and all.

 

beautiful pictures of India
Marine Drive, Mumbai. On one of my first days when I returned from SA last year. Longing for the Latin American land but soaking in the tropical sun.

 

beautiful pictures of India
Wild Indian Bisons in a jungle near Ooty. They didn’t care if we’re there and were watching them quietly from the bottom of the hill. The alpha male made sure that all were secure.

 

beautiful pictures of India
The mighty Hanuman stands tall. Nearby my house in Bangalore. And you can see a mosque right in the background.

 

beautiful pictures of india
Near Hogenakkal falls, Tamil Nadu. In India, rural women work hard and sell homemade food to make money and send their children to school.

 

Goa. Goa. Goa. On a bachelorette party. Goa is a fun place for bachelors, families, adventure lovers, peace seekers, solitude seekers, party animals alike. Goa would let you wing her the way you want to.

 

beautiful pictures of india
Maybe Jodhpur railway station or was it New Delhi?

 

Alleppey beach, Kerala. Let me rest, for the sun is high, and I ain’t in no mood to catch a fish yet.

 

beautiful pictures of india
The teen darwaja market of Ahmedabad. Exquisite jewelery, embroidered clothes, handbags, and so much more. I bought a pair of ear rings as big as my palm.

 

beautiful pictures of india
Gadsisar lake Jaisalmer. If you head out to Jaisalmer, do visit this quaint lake which was a bit away from the center. In the old era, this lake supplied water to the city of Jaisalmer. The place is quiet, and you can watch a golden sunset there. And there is a beautiful temple in the middle of the lake, whose pandit would make sure that you sit inside and pay your tribute to the god. The temple was peaceful, and I would visit it again anytime.

 

beautiful pictures of india
Sand dunes, Jaisalmer. Though you put a rope through my nose, I carry you. Now let me rest, for the sun is low and I finally get to catch my breath.

 

beautiful pictures of india
Somewhere in a lane behind the fort in Jaisalmer. If you ask someone in the fort or outside, they would guide you to her place. Just tell them that you want to eat home Rajasthani food made by an old lady, and you would be happy to help.

 

beautiful pictures of india
Langurs. When we were little kids, a man used to bring a langur to our lane and make him dance to entertain the kids and the adults and then they paid him. When I was a little girl I enjoyed the show, but now I would run away with the langur and then free him, I guess.

 

beautiful pictures of india
Bengaluru. The orange sun, having done his work for the day, sets behind the concrete.

 

beautiful pictures of india
A religious procession near Namdroling monastery. These processions look good in pictures, but if you happen to pass by them, the pompous crowd hides behind the religion and wouldn’t even blink once before hitting you if you happen to touch one of them by mistake.

 

beautiful pictures of india
A farmhouse in Coorg. These round things that you see are not balls, they are passion fruits with the best view in the world.

 

beautiful pictures of india
Beautiful fishes swimming in a big aquarium in a mall in Hyderabad.

 

Malka masoor dal, parwal, and rotis. All homemade by none other than me. There is nothing better than a plate of home food dipped in the warmth of your loved ones, bet you not.

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What do you love most about India? Or what do you hate most about India?

6 Comments

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  2. Prerna Sharma October 20, 2018 at 11:55 am

    Amazing!

    Reply
  3. Arunima Dey October 20, 2018 at 11:32 am

    As a 30yo Indian woman who travels solo and is comparatively very privileged, I find your article extremely thought provoking and relatable. Beautiful written, your prose is lyrical that reads less like a blog and more like a novel.

    Reply
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  6. Dana Sanford September 1, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    A wonderful travelog of a beautiful country.
    Thank you.

    Reply

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