It could have been at the sight of the Mahabodhi or the mighty Ganga, or some moment after an exhausting day of trekking in Ladakh. But it took much less than that: on the first day, when a group of saree clad women, each in a different colour, were struck by the rosy orange rays of an ordinary monsoon sunset as they crossed one of the same looking streets of Lutyens’s Delhi. That’s when I fell in love, and from then more and more and for good.
There was a Mahabodhi moment, more than one Ganga moment, there was a trek in Ladakh with a head full of thoughts. There were the streets of Kolkata with their Durga Puja pandal crowd, and the feeling of being back somewhere near my own home when in Goa. There were encounters with ruins of Empires past in Hampi, in Lucknow, in Delhi’s Civil Lines. There was also this time when my heart went silent listening to the qawwali or in the face of the bravery of the JNU students that stopped me on my way in my car to say what their fight was about.
But really? As important as those moments are, they are too lonely. I like being in the company of people, and people is something that India has. Many and so adorable. Everyday I felt the genuine care of Mr. Shankar and Mr. Ramesh, as the first drove my family and friends to the Taj Mahal as if they were his own, and as the second cooked our daily surprise daal. The people at the gym who became friendlier and friendlier every day and made my early morning exercise something to look forward to. The great and brave LGBT friends, their intelligence and sensitivity and interest in how India was treating us the gay Brazilian couple. Our artist, writer, musician and cultural activist, the people who produce the best human beings can produce and who were the ones who showed different ways of looking at the subcontinent. Of course, though not India, the camaraderie of the fellows from our own Embassy and the other offices was part of the happy story.
I am very happy that I cannot really explain how living in India changed me. That’s what happens when you love so much – you don’t really know why-how-what you just know it is there. It was because of the people, because of my Indiawaale friends, but that’s only obvious, as that’s where love comes from and goes to. I feel I became more reverent to difference. I became more respectful to the whole idea of religion. And more willing to get out of my own everyday uses and try to live partly as the other. I don’t know what-how-when, all I know is that I got entangled here and I hope the ties and knots won’t snap as I move away.
I’ve never made so many friends in such a short period of time. And from them I borrowed their festivals, this good feeling of celebration that comes back over and over again through the year, once for Ram, once for Buddha; this other time for Shiva, this other time for Mohammed, and even my own Christ of childhood has somehow become more cheerful. I borrowed the kurta, which is the most perfect piece of garment ever invented. I traded my coats for long cozy woolen shawls. I adopted the half coreographed half spontaneous dance to the songs from Bollywood (also I know who some of them married whom, who are even suspected to be gay and all). I felt back in the West for holidays that indeed, Indians are right, our food is bland. Even jaljeera. No, not really, guys, I can’t understand jaljeera, but well, you can’t love everything really, can you? But that’s me, I’m sure it’s delicious and bandar kya jaane adrak ka swaad?
I will miss my friends and because they won’t be around I will miss their accents in English. Specially he way they say “purple”. And “here”. I hope I will keep some of the language use only. Like this one I used only. I will miss the many colours and textures they wear, and the way they carry their bodies beautifully, spine erect, looking straight with their beautiful eyes. I will miss the smells and flavours of their favourite food, and their questions about how it is back there where I come from.
So, Indiawaale friends, thank you for the stories and experiences. Thank you for making India another home. Thank you for making it so difficult to leave. Yeh Dilli hai mere yaar, bas ishq mohabbat pyaar.
It’s a sad day. But jaaan hai to jahaan hai. I will come back because the ones of you who pray will help me in my prayers, won’t you?
Here is a pinch of pink powder (saffron is overrated, sorry). I throw it on your faces. Now come running after me where I am going, don’t stay so far and we’ll keep playing. Let’s not be so sad, bura na mano, Holi hai!
Dhanyavad. Phir milenge.