Friday, September 2, 2011
A Passage to India Redux
It took fifteen minutes to overwhelm me.
The door of the plane opened and the heat, the smells, the noise rushed in. India had announced herself. Clearly I was not in Perthshire anymore.
The terminal of Bombay airport was pure chaos. The colors. The teeming masses. The alien smells. The clothing. The sheer, mad hubbub.
Within minutes my bag had been stolen. It contained a Billy Joel single and purple hair dye in a can, things my fifteen-year-old mind thought I would need in India.
And then we were in a car and out in the city, Mum and Dad - who were there to pick us up - the only familiar things in my suddenly changed world. My utterly inverted, nonsensical world.
I wanted to get back on the plane and head home. Immediately.
India, to put it bluntly, takes a lot of getting used to. It assaults you. It imposes itself on you. It owns you.
Over the course of the next seven years, though - and, really, within a week or two - India came to be a part of me. It changed me, fascinated me, mystified and intoxicated me. Simply put, it is a place like no other.
And now I get to go back. With my family.
That's another crazy thing about this lifestyle we have chosen (see post below): one morning you go into work with your day all planned out, the next minute someone has sent you an email telling you you are off to a whole new country.
This morning I was informed that, after this job finishes in August, I will be off to language school to learn Hindi and then onwards to New Delhi for two years.
India has changed a lot since 1980, of course. (So have I, as you can see by the pictures, most of them taken at the wonderful place my friends Nicky and Penny Horsburgh called home for many years.) But I am so thrilled that my family will have the opportunity to experience the charm, mystery and tapestried history. It won't all be smooth sailing. India can shock and appall and madden you. There is awful poverty and a hardness to the daily life of millions that my kids have never seen.
It teaches you - and schools you.
My parents, who love India deeply, went back for six weeks last year. To visit places they hadn't seen and, in a way, to say goodbye.
When I spoke to my father this morning, he said, "You bugger, I thought we were done with India." Now, clearly, they are not. And they are excited about that.
As are we. Now we must live life fully in New Zealand for the next 11 months. There is still so much of this wonderful country we need to see.