My new grandmotherly spritely friend Jay and I saw a Bolloywood film together in Bangalore the other day. Fun. : )
Although we couldn’t understand absolutely any of the Hindi spoken and sung, the visuals were India just as I am experiencing it outside the doors of classy Rex Cinema.
In my mind I conjured up this vision of a friend and I watching the film (probably with subtitles this time around) and him/her turning to me and asking, “Wow – so really, what is India like?”
In this vision I answer him/her simplistically and holistically as I point to the screen and shrug nonchalantly- “India’s pretty self-explanatory.”
And then I realized this is just about the foolish and untrue statement that has ever come out of my potential mouth. Psssht, what a silly thing to say!
India is not self-explanatory in the least, especially when the government posts signs in the park that read “NO ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES” – or when rickshaw drivers ask their brother, their acquaintance, their business competition, and finally you exactly the whereabouts of this place that you the foreigner are visiting in this driver’s hometown – or when you see a Bollywood dance routine where women are dressed more scandalously than you can ever imagine, and get back to the street to see women in burkas who may be watching the same dance routine – or when the shoe holders at the temple entrance keep the change from your five rupee coin, when the sign is clearly marked one rupee per pair of shoes, but apparently for foreigners is a more luxurious price – or when its tourists expect to be treated with special attention but are only willing to pay less than the local price – or when the post office’s request for “Q PLEASE” is literally trampled underfoot by the masses including yourself, who have probably never realized how one is supposed to spell queue. or queu… – or when cafe menus turn out to be six years old with half the items out of stock and the other half hilariously mispelled, and the cafe turns out to be a place that of course sells only dosas in the morning and nothing else – or when a sign advertises an education service for self-empowerment and entrepeneurship with “individual care for dull students…” hahaha… – or when its sacred cows are allowed to feed off the crumpled rubbish lining every reachable ditch – or when the joy and celebration of an Indian wedding is nowhere reflected in the haggard, stressed out faces of the bride and groom who have people yelling at them, music blaring at them, and huge cameras stuck in their supposedly-jubilant faces – or when a wedding attendee spies your camera and asks to see your camera permission ticket, looking very serious and important as he reads the ticket completely upside down – or when you are sitting and eating a delicious meal and wondering how in the world you can stand yourself when you see the handless, footless, toothless, speckled brothers and sisters in the street who would give anything for some naan but have absolutely nothing to give – or when you receive the most understandable directions, or the most unsolicited compassion, or the most uninhibited toothy smile and most reaffirming little head wiggle from the person you would least expect to share it with you.
Yeah, India’s pretty self-explanatory.