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My India

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By Elena Vinokurova

‘Who are poorer than those who don’t allow changes consisting of dates, names and places of residence? Everyone is a slave to a medical card, credit card, business card, each numbered and labeled. Every will live only if to pay the mortgage, and you – if you’re smart, you’ve realized that there is no better time than now! My India will never end!’ – Vera Polozkova

My India, I am with you, again!

Dreams come true! I sincerely believed, waited patiently, and kept in mind all your memories, my India: the roads, the trains, the sunsets and sunrises, the faces and the colors, the smells and sounds…

India didn’t let go of me for a minute. And I was glad that it didn’t. India came into my dreams at night, and stayed with me…

I watched the sunset from the 10th floor in my Moscow apartment with a cigarette tucked between my fingers. An aircraft was flying in the sky, reminding me that it will be soon time again to revisit my beloved India…

I accidentally catch the smell of sandalwood on the Moscow streets, turn around, and look for India, to breathe again, to feel again…

I paw the jewelry that I bought in India. I wish to give them away because I have more than just a thing with me. My memories of India.

The luxurious Moscow life is the waiting room prior to my departure for India. Huge wide streets, tall buildings, and the crowds hurrying past to be first.  The perpetual traffic, disgruntled luxury class cars, dim cafes, tight neckties, quick and plastic lunches, communication via devices, the occasional smile. Millions of shops. Loneliness in each. We argue about everything. We try to listen, we walk, and we make love. Moscow is really beautiful. But you can’t live here and be who you are.

And they say: “Well, look, you have everything here that one expects: work, money, comfort…” I barely manage to say, “That’s not all to life…”

The Indian music pouring from the player and tears form in the corners of my eyes. It rescues me in the metro…Moscow at night; you are beautiful, of course! Hundreds of beautiful women passing by like pearls on a necklace and their aspirational gentlemen with them. It’s not morning yet. I swallow tequila with lime, licking the salt with my fingers. I remember the sea while swallowing salt water. And the tequila was not necessary…

***

Noisy, shocking Delhi but a place where I feel at home. For the thousandth time Agra. Revisiting Lucknow. Vrindavan with its gods, stone temples, and sad cows walking…

Varanasi. You can never fully grasp it and you can never fully soak it in. Fascinating ceremony near the Ganges for the departed ones. Narrow streets, mazes, calligraphic font Hindi on the different-colored walls…

Pink Jaipur, with the astounding fort. Native Pushkar: masala tea by the fire at Main Road; the morning mantra in the mountains; women gracefully carrying water on their heads among the rose bushes. Jodhpur blurs the boundaries between the horizon and the sky blue walls of houses. Jaisalmer, a skillfully carved wooden box. And an eternal sun drenching the desert. It will always be so. Udaipur, Bikaner…

Amritsar, you’re a fairy tale. As if, I am looking through a keyhole to discover a miracle: laughing children, incredible, beautiful with huge almond eyes; Indian women in colorful saris; spicy food; long ribbons of trains; boys playing cricket; old men in turbans, waving at you; everyone smiling. Everything imbued with religion, love, and kindness…

I am again with you, my India!

***

The long-awaited day of my departure to India arrived, finally. I am excited!

I went through hundreds and hundreds of identical days; two mirrors, endlessly reflected in each other. I made a plan, listing all the cities and the streets that we would walk on. I imagined how it would happen, as I didn’t need to run to the metro in the morning, didn’t need to go to work, waiting for the day to end. I dreamed of buying a one-way ticket, break away from life, and start a new life. I hoped to rush to a new direction every day – East, West, North, and South – collecting new impressions and feeling new emotions.

Somewhere I read that no place remains the same when you visit it again. And, India, I would meticulously observe and write down all your moods and character traits to come back, to see what remained of them, what has changed, and what has disappeared. I will be in India for more than three months to be able to record everything…

Five and a half hours flight flew fast. Two hours of watching Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, lunch or, rather, dinner. And here we are. The yellow and red lights of Delhi. This is the third time I come flying to Delhi at the same time, the late evening. And every time, I look forward to the plane touching down at the airport. Once again, I see millions of lights facing us.

At 22.30 Indian Time, our captain, Vladimir Orlov, made a successful landing. The passengers broke out in a loud applause, thanking the crew. Time to disembark…

Walking down the hallway that connects the plane to the airport building, the first thing you notice is the smell. Ohhh!!!! The magic smoky smell of spices and incense. It’s the smell of India – the smell of her cities and streets, of temples and sanctuaries, the smell of colored saris, of garlands hung on the portraits of gods, the smell of bazaars and spices. Nothing stirs the memory as the smell. I could spend hours breathing it in, in reviewing in my head the pictures of my favorite moments of travel.

The golden statues and figurines, the uniformed Indian airport workers, and the customs declarations. All the familiar things. I feel at home!

***

India! Amazing and incredible India! My mysterious fairy tale!

India, a country with a long history; home to the greatest sages and philosophers; the mother of the oldest religions and spiritual practices; the land of unusual temples, the brightest colors in the world; a land of intoxicating smells of spices and incense; a land of magical music and sounds.

A country that has never invaded the border of any other country.

To see how to live a simple and harmonious life, everyone should visit India.

India is an open, welcoming, and easy country. And the Indians are amazingly friendly, helpful, cheerful, happy, and open people…

India has far surpassed my expectations!

The Indians do not just ‘believe in God’, they remember God all the time. They have gods in their hearts.

Indian women are very beautiful and natural, vibrant and attractive, while at the same time, they are sober.

India has managed to maintain its traditions. One of the main lessons that one can obtain in India is that one need not look to external attributes or details but look to the essence of things.

India is manifested in intuition and not necessarily in intellect. In India, if you communicate with people as human beings and not just as professionals, you will discern another level of communication with very different results.

***

Return to Delhi is always pleasant and sad at the same time. I love Delhi. But when I go back to Delhi every time at the end of my India trip, it reminds me I need to go back home. Three months passed, as if they were just a couple of weeks. I wonder about the Indian Slow Time (IST), where 10 minutes become 2 hours. But not so when I want to delay my stay in India!

Every morning in Delhi, I feel the excitement. And every morning brings me closer to my departure. I feel a little scared to go back. I repeat in my mind all the favorite moments of my trip. I don’t forget a minute, not a person, not one smile. And in those moments when I think of my return to my Moscow, I know I will return to these memories to continue to breathe and remind myself, “My India will never die in my soul”.

Before I wake up in the morning in Moscow, I continue to ruminate.

I’ll be right down the stairs of the New King and say ‘Hello’, always sitting at my favorite Sunny…go to the Main Bazaar wishing everyone, walk past the shopping arcade, go out to the sea, walk barefoot on the sand, and the sea-waves licking my feet…how glad I will feel to see Sunil smiling again…I will say, “Sunil, omelets and black coffee please”…as the dawn arrives leaving the darkness behind, I will see the amazing towers of Hampi temples…the window-framed Calcutta with pigs running around with the kids…waiting for breakfast in Tirupati…the disappearing clouds among the snow-covered tops of Pokhara and the crystal cold air over the lake…the serpentine roads in the tea plantations around Darjeeling…sipping rum to keep warm while listening to the funny stories of the Raj…feeding the monkeys at the lake in Pushkar and sitting on the steps near the holy lake with cows, pigeons, monkeys, and dogs…and burn my feet on the hot asphalt streets…drinking hot tea in the evenings sitting on the wicker stools right on the roadside…and millions of stories in the eyes of those I take photograph…God bless you, India!

***

India, a drug. India is addictive from the very first dose. You will have to keep on constantly increasing the dose. In the end, your life goes completely downhill and you are lost forever in the streets of Main Bazaar. You have no future and all that awaits you is death from an overdose of sun, freedom, and chili peppers…and, then, you wake up in a gray city apartment in a gray concrete high-rise under a gray sky among people dressed in gray ties.

India is my personal brand of ‘heroin’.

Pic-credit: Here

Author:

Elena Vinokurova finished her university education in Moscow, Russia. She began to travel four years ago and, after her first visit to India, she fell in love with the country. Every year for three years in a row, she has come back to India and travelled around. She loves meeting new people and can’t imagine life without travel. Her hobby is photography.

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Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.

***

Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Lucknow’s Many Muslims”. Edited by Prof. Nadeem Hasnain & Aseem Hasnain. The rich array of essays explores various facets of Lucknow, a ‘Muslim city par excellence.’

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2 Responses to “My India”

  1. lopu123

    Such a deep, personal sojourn you share here, peppered with hope, anticipation, nostalgia and self-exploration. A delightful read! Reading this, I am beginning to miss my hometown all over again!

    Reply
  2. Rafikul Islam

    “India, a drug”….mesmerized Elena by ur words….keep coming…

    Reply

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