India is awesome in the true sense of the word: awesome |ôsəm|adjective Extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear (or both!)
Exploding in my face it saturated my senses. Rapid and flashing movement, rackets of shifting colour, the air reeked of disorder. Hustle bustle rattle. Pungent oxygen bulking under humidity, it pasted to my skin turning my pores into craters gathering India’s sooty madness, my tee-shirted armpits drowned in greasy sweat. Horns clanged, bells clattered and plumes of spicy curries crammed into any spare breathing space. People occupied every inch of ground, they were lodged in every nook and cranny, the population had outgrown the land, there was no empty space. The Indians, they stared at me, chatted to me, squashed up against me, bumped into me, they wanted to shake my hand, sell me something, take my photo, touch me, they wanted my attention and they didn’t let up. The hounds were drawn to my fresh green blood, they sensed my newcomer discomfort, they were better at this than me, I couldn’t see outside my twitchy fear and they could read my mind. Friendly folk loomed as dark shady characters. Women, adorned in sari gracefulness glided over the dirt, sludge and slush that decorated the streets, they were immune, I was not. The filthy wetness crept into my shoes and up my bare legs, my feet merged with pavement. Splattered cow hides draped over protruding bones swayed to the beat of their own tranquil death drum they nuzzled the rotting garbage abandoned in the corners, their bloated stomachs filled with twisted plastic. Soiled shopfront windows concealed gastro inducing eateries, spots of black flies flashed through line of sight before placing their infected feet on every sticky table top. Colourful incense danced from doorways and drifted over the filth of carelessly discarded human waste. The horrific clamour of daunting roads shoved me to the bottom of the food chain, the thunder of a deafening truck tinkled by, sinewy muscles pumped the peddles of the next meal, black exhaust pollution spewed from homemade vehicles, buses filled to the brim weaved dangerously through the clogged traffic. A sick cow stood unperturbed in the centre of it all, it’s head slightly cocked to one side as though it detected a lone scent. Mange crusted street dogs timidly stalked the skinny laneways. Peeling paint flaked from crumbling walls. A flash of the rickshaw driver’s gleaming white teeth. How can he smile when he lives in this hell? I watched fidgety cockroaches scatter across the floor as my dinner was slopped down in front of me on a metal cafeteria plate. I can feel the stale urinals outside contaminate my food as the dead weight of the heavy meal lines my fragile colon, how sick will I be tomorrow? Sight, sound, smell, taste and touch overflow and burst at the seams with clutter. India exuded from every atom, even within myself. It battered my innards as it trickled inside me invading my cell walls. It seeped under my doorways and through my brick wall defences, it made my skin crawl and rocked me to the core.
One could never invent a place like India in the imagination. It had been explained to me many times and as hard as I tried to get some sort of grasp of what I was in for my mind only allowed for small unimaginative alternatives to what it already knew. After the first day spent in Paharganj (Delhi’s backpacker district) all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and wake up two weeks later after I’d had a chance to become accustomed to the chaotic commotion. I was utterly flabbergasted by this place, it was so old and dirty and completely rubbed up against my anal retentive ordered practicality. Still, I could see the plus side, as distant as it felt right then, I knew it was there expanding my mind and adjusting the barriers of my comfort zone. The pain of acclimatisation wasn’t going to last long, it was time to let go of my fears and open my heart and let the world flood in.