An encouraging sign at the train station kiosk in Mangalore.

So I’m going back to India. I’m not big into yoga. Or meditating. In fact, I find clearing my mind a nearly impossible and entirely daunting task. I picture my brain like a Lite-Brite board and no amount of “om-ing” has ever been able to clear that grid. And Indian food isn’t my favorite. Just thinking about masala gives me heartburn, actually. And it sure ain’t the squatting bathroom etiquette that intrigues me, nor the ever present aroma of burning plastic that fills the streets. Not the rabid packs of dogs that howl at night, nor the incessant ringing of bells from temples at dawn.

But something about the crowding and the chaos and all the grime and the rawness of it all is captivating. There is something so alluring about the incense burning and the tikka wearing and the jangling ankle bracelettes and the flowing saris and the mustached men and the open air trains.

It’s a free-for-all.

The traffic and congestion and the lack of personal space and the absence of manners and the pushing and shoving. The gentle ruthlessness and chaotic clutter. The whole world is upside down in India- but it all makes sense somehow. It’s like the monkeys all banging on typewriters and then a masterpiece novel emerges.

Indian kiddies smashed together on a tuk-tuk wearing school uniforms in Delhi traffic.

And I do love the chai, especially when served in tiny plastic bathroom cups that melt under the heat of the tea and crinkle in your hand. You just know you’re consuming all the toxins from that little cup but the tea is so sweet and rich that you can overlook that fact and embrace it. And when you’re through with the cup, the local chai walla- who so graciously served you out of his tin-walled storefront on the side of the dirt road- insists that you litter your empty cup right there on the ground, as it will be burned later with the rest of the rubbish. After all, no trash man is going to come and dispose of it for you. Because there is no luxurious infrastructure that supports garbage removal, oh no. But doing that just feels wrong. Because where you were raised, you were taught that littering is bad for the environment.

When in India, do as the Indians do?

I do love walking around barefoot all the time. Mandatory shoe removal is something I could sure get used to. Mandatory earplug wearing if you ever want to get a good night’s rest is not. Ah, screw comfort and cleanliness: I’m going anyway! And I am thinking about making myself a pair of Holly Golightly inspired tasseled earplugs to take on the road. Slummin’ it in style.

So stay tuned, my friends, as the tale of my India adventure unfolds. I will do my best to keep you posted and to keep you entertained. I plan on leaving within a few weeks, but as you will come to see, making plans and India are two things that do not exactly correlate…

Allison Cohn loves gold spray paint and nonsense. She also has a very difficult time sitting still and keeping quiet. She can often be found dancing like a fool when she isn’t hiding out in her mountain lair or gallivanting around the globe.

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