Another India (23)

SCAN0324 (1)

We woke early that morning and almost immediately took flight. We ascended as high as we could before tiring. We had not set eyes on our beloved Alibaug for almost a year, and couldn’t wait to see her in her entirety. The winter had been the coldest for some time and our journey here tumultuous, but we had arrived safe – just the two of us – hovering above our heavenly garden in the Arabian sea. The heat was too much for many, but not us. We sang the whole day, songs of ancestors, of long-forgotten kingdoms, of invaders on the beaches, and the rajas that now replace them.

That evening we took up residence in a coconut tree that overlooked a small island resort. Three travellers sat in a halcyon garden, accompanied by music we ourselves had not heard in many years. We watched them drink, talk, and feast, just as those before them had come to do.

Another India (22)

SCAN0323 (1)

Shimmying down a path between two bungalows, I emerge behind the scenes of this small resort. I spot the cook standing at his kitchen window smoking a biri. I wave and he smiles back with an accompanying head shake.

I remember a similar event whilst wandering around the town of Hammamet, Tunisia. Although instead of a smile, the man frowned and shouted something at me in Arabic. I didn’t need to speak the language to know he wasn’t happy with my intrusion.

What are the implications of making the private public?

Another India (19)

SCAN0317 (1)

Auroville promises equality. It’s a utopian township project founded in 1968, centred around the principle of developing a harmonious humanity. But every sweeper I saw, every labourer, every gardener, every cleaner, was Indian. Where were the hundreds of Europeans that live and volunteer here?

Another India (18)

SCAN0310

I had planned to work on some writing projects today but I’ve yet to get going. It’s solstice but the rain has been coming down relentlessly since I woke up. Motivation to do anything has dwindled and I’ve instead spent the morning practising French, whilst waiting for some videos I shot to compress to the right size.  The last hour has been spent reading news articles.

It’s a slow day, but the world around me feels as if it’s moving faster than ever. It’s chaos, a chaos I feel intrinsically apart of but hopeless to change. As a ‘writer’, is it not my responsibility to organise this mess into something coherent? But I can’t, or at least, I feel unable to right now. So instead, I try a picture and some self-relflections.

Another India (16)

SCAN0308 (1)

At a museum: “Entrance for two, please”. “Are you Indians?”. “Yes”. The gallery attendant pauses, as he carefully examines my face. Unconvinced, he turns back to my Nani. “You are. But he’s not.” A sharp anger rises in her, “How dare you! This is my grandson.”

After this event, she reminds me several times during my stay: we are Sindhis. We are often very fair-skinned people. I could show that man many Indians that look like you.

When I tell my fellow Indians that I am half-Indian, the surprised responses I receive are never hostile, but within them is a murmur of exclusion.

Another India (15)

 

SCAN0303 (1)

I spent 3 days in Chennai and a day in Pondicherry. Looking back over my journal I realise I didn’t write anything about this trip. I had scrawled down pages on Mumbai and several  more about Cochin. But nothing of my time in Tamil Nadu.

I visited my great uncles and aunts there. I remember how P. would drink half a bottle of whisky before dinner, but never a drop after. I remember getting my haircut, and in a typically Indian fashion, this became an upper-body massage and general grooming session. I remember the fresh, delicious dosas (my personal favourite) always served on banana leaves for ease of disposal. I remember sweltering with my family under the one ceiling fan whilst watching the cricket world cup, just hoping that the electricity would hold out (to see the match through and for the life-giving cool air). But all the while I struggled to find the rights words, just as I do now.