Thursday, May 31, 2012

Carolann's Parting Thoughts on India

We're leaving India on a high note and in full colour, today being the feast of Holi. Here's a few thoughts I have, in summary, about out nine weeks on the subcontinent. - Carolann

We're here in Hospet on the day of Holi, a festival in India where people dance and throw coloured powder at each other. I've used up the last of my Polaroids -- actually I'm lugging around a Fuji instant picture camera now since Polaroid got out of the instant picture business (but I still call it my Polaroid).

I am always swarmed when I start giving away photographs and I sometimes feel I'm leaving behind more ill feelings than pleasure since I can't possibly satisfy everyone's request. Still, I've been doing this sort of thing for ten years and even though most people have picture-taking cell phones, in poorer countries, no one has a picture to keep for themselves. Images evaporate on the cell phone.

I managed to get out of the colouring with just a purple face. Dan got in the line of more powder fire, but that's the fun of it. The pounding drums excite people and they dance and smear.

We were planning to take in the Holi at the magnificent ruins of Hampi, but, just yesterday, the date was pushed ahead a day. The festival is celebrated according to the moon and the date and time varies with the region. With car and hotel booked and paid for, not to mention our visa expiring, we needed to move on to Hyderabad to catch a plane. So instead, we hung around our hotel and the local Holi celebrations spilled onto its front lawn.

I'm happy that we're leaving India on a high note. During nine weeks of travel here, I've had my ups and downs with the country. Sometimes I'm in better mental and physical shape to roll with the chaos and cacophony, because, besides an open heart, it takes physical stamina to travel independently here. I've therefore come to appreciate the "third eye" that spiritualists talk about. I could have used one in negotiating the laneways of Udaipur. A pedestrian competes with dogs, old cars, bikes, auto rickshaws, honking cars, belching trucks, shouting crowds with raised placards, piles of rotting garbage, fresh dung, parked motorcycles, and retail goods spilling onto the walkways. Too often, I ended my day thinking: India is a mess.  

But at other times, when I've been rested .... No, what am I thinking, India is still a mess!

In fairness, the south of India we've seen over the last four weeks has been easier. There hasn't been the crush of people. Admittedly, most of the time we've been on the seaside, the Bay of Bengal and then the Arabian Sea. The ocean wind moderates everything. Also, we've enjoyed the company of other westerners concentrated in such places and that gives the experience another dimension.

I've come to appreciate that India is hardly a country at all, rather, it's an assembly of tribes.  I can now recognize a high cheek-boned Tamil and the cherub-faced women from Assam. And it's more a multicultural society than a melting pot. Certainly what never melts here is caste, even if ethnicity could be blurred.

That's all I have to say about India.

 On Sunday morning we leave India and Southeast Asia entirely. Sunday evening, we'll be in Spain. Ojala.  

[See for more of Carolann's travel stories]


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