Thursday 25 April 2013

India again

I arrived in India just over a week ago to do some research for the novel I'm working on now, tentatively called Sing a Worried Song. Though it's mostly set in rural Manitoba, its frame story is in Bombay in 1970, a time when many European and North American hippies were drawn to India by its spiritual allure.

When Indians hear that it's my second time in India, they ask me, "So what do you like about India?" And so far I've found that I don't really have an answer. It's so maddingly chaotic at times, trying to cross the street is suicidal, and trying to find my way around (I have a terrible sense of direction) is so frustrating it's (almost) funny. For instance, in Mumbai, I was looking for a certain restaurant and as I walked, I passed some artists who had their work displayed for sale on boards. I saw a beautiful pen and ink sketch of an elephant trunk that I knew my friend Diane would love so I thought, I'll stop here on my way back. Five minutes later, I passed the same drawing. No, it wasn't a print. It was the same damn drawing and I'd somehow made a complete circle. Yeah, well that's what I've read about people who are lost. Eventually, they will always circle back to where they began. I was hungry and hot, so I gave up and ate somewhere else. My only salvation is the autorickshaw drivers who can always find where I need to go, if I can't.

I think what first drew me to India was the books I read, by Rohinton Mistry and Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy, and also Forster's A Passage to India and the crochety traveler, Paul Theroux's The Great Railway Bazaar. I wanted to see some of it for myself. I love the food, the music, the colours, and the fact that even amid the chaos, there is great beauty. But that could be said about many places. I'm in the countryside in the south right now as I type this, listening to the rumble of an approaching thunderstorm, and the birds going crazy as the sun goes down. The sky is the red ochre hue of the earth here. The crows cackle like monkeys. I still can't put my finger on what it is about the place.


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