Strong animals have claws that grip and fail to let you go. Ostrich’s look above the crowd and have the largest eyes, they are active early in the morning and late in the day.
India is such an animal, basking in what it has created in the heat of the day, and towering over other countries with its manpower and capacity for greatness. The ostrich is not always thought of as the most attractive bird, but there are many species, and its slightness, and propensity to flight mean anything is possible.
The writer who said ‘visiting India once is an experience and twice is repetition’ missed a crucial trick. Staying two weeks or eight months is similar, superficially. India gets under the skin remarkably fast, and from then on the experiences you have become an osmosis leaking and bleaching through the skin.
Only those who have been here and spent time trying to know this place will understand the luring and seducing ways of the subcontinent, but those that keep returning will find the ink harder to wash away…
These thoughts stem from a sojourn to an American style diner (The Big Chill) and afterwards, three friends and I got into a car in a deserted parking area, and were instantly surrounded by security forces. We huddled to one side wondering what had happened. The first thoughts we all jump to at anything out of the ordinary: terrorist attack, mafia invasion, crime… all misguided.
There in front of us, stepping from a battered red Maruti was Rahul Gandhi. We watched as he disappeared, and a convoy of four by fours and government vehicles drove away with India’s next potential leader melting into the night.
Buoyant at this show of political sneakiness outside our favourite café, we drove to Bangla Sahib, a Sikh holy Gudwara in the centre of Delhi, watched a broken moon and ate more, the traditional meal given to any visitor. It was midnight. We continued on to India gate, and my stuttering Hindi and jubilant ‘Namaste’ bows convinced security guards to let us through for a private viewing. India by night, and India with its soft edges brings a feeling like no other. National Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said happiness is expansion, and sadness is contraction. Roaming Delhi by night takes you to the point of being a child clutching a balloon, believing absolutely that you are about to be swept away and carried into the bursting city air.
After this, the temple food, the shiny moon, the sightseeing, the open ness of Delhi’s roads at night, I asked; will India always be this flexible? The response from Arun Binani, who takes care of India operations for the University of Dundee (pictured below) : Being an emotional country, it will always have second thoughts.
India, described as emotional gives it a heart, and as soon as you encounter the heart of a place, like the gratuity of the guards at India Gate letting a few friends see something that wasn’t open to the rest of the country, the ink seeps deeper. Connecting with someone anywhere makes it feel a step closer to home.
The general consensus states whatever you do after India in your life will seem easy. But this post is a tribute to just the opposite ideology. Whatever you do after India will be incredibly difficult, as you try to find the same magic, essence and aroma in the UK that hits you each day without trying here. In Europe you ‘make party’, in India, every day is a party.
Ray Bradbury (Dandelion Wine) said “I want to feel all there is to feel, he thought. Let me feel tired, now, let me feel tired. I mustn’t forget, I’m alive, I know I’m alive, I mustn’t forget it tonight or tomorrow or the day after that.”
The company I work for ‘Sannam S4’ was the brainchild of Adrian Mutton who started doing business in India twenty-one years ago, he never anticipated a double decade relationship, but found himself unable to leave. He has built successful businesses, navigated a complex market place, and created companies that have increased exponentially in size. His inspiration came initially from a trip away during his teenage years with the RSAA ‘Royal Society of Asian Affairs’ which brought him into Pakistan, then a gap year spent teaching in Saharanpur in the North.
It is involvement such as this that I’m watching keenly, journalists I’ve met in bars, expats who have been here four years and found a way to be.
I’m tiptoeing on raised heels to see how I can stay part of this ostrich journey, India is the perfect place for second thoughts.