I was anxious to leave Mumbai but to my relief, there’s Indian food in the north as well. I claimed I could be happy eating nothing but pizza on odd days and curry on even days. With classes held at the Italian Cultural Center in New Delhi, my dream has come true. Our Dallas professor reappears in India. It seems improbable that I ever lived in Texas. Montreal, just three weeks ago, is a distant memory. My sister’s engagement party in February, a childhood dream.
The story of India’s heritage sites is an epic poem. The quoted number of gods, rupees spent, or years toiled expand and contract for maximum effect. We set off on a night bus to Agra. The red, red orb of the sun rises through the mists of the flat, flat pale green fields. The oxen are already plowing. The Taj Mahal is already glowing. Even as I walk under it, through it, around it, it remains inaccessible. A tomb to a woman dead from too many childbirths.
The Ashkardham Temple, on the other hand, is alive with prayer, evangelism, ongoing story, Pirates of the Caribbean-style boat rides retelling the story of India, and Disney-engineered light & water shows. The crowd loves it. Kids go wild. If you want to get people hooked on culture, start them young. And for that, it has to be entertaining. This week’s key lesson.
The Sanskriti artist residency is a dusty, tranquil collective of mud huts and lotus ponds. It reminds me of my time at Ox-Bow in Michigan. The earth exudes the same sigh on a hot midafternoon, pierced by the shrilling cicadas. Artists sigh to find themselves in their art. I half expect to run into a blissed-out Robert Plant.
I haven’t gone shopping because I stink at negotiating with vendors. 150 rupees off the price is sport for me, but food for a day for their family. Helen taught me this. Also, it’s 2 dollar 15 cents. I’ve coveted a robin’s egg blue silk rug that’s priced so high that it should fly, but where would I fly it to? I am without abode. Our people in Rome have moved to Milan. The city has adopted Patatina Nera. She huffs at stray cats and ambles around off-leash like she owns the place. She provides relief for homesick Aussie and American tourists who pay to pet her.
Besides Helen, the years have also taught me a bunch of stuff. Stick around long enough, and you will have eaten most things, dated most people, tried most art forms, made most mistakes. With age, I correct my mistakes faster. And then I go on to make bigger ones. I can’t wait to see the next doozy.