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essays | places


feel everything


Agra / India · 2015   mirage



   Yes, you can see everything, taste everything, smell everything, and experience everything in India, but most importantly, you can feel everything there. The human condition, raw, in all its extremes and middles and aberrations cannot not touch you one way or the other. The colors cannot not dye you a little. The turmoil cannot not whirl you a lot. The cement, the jungle, the desert – everything is sweating life’s essence until it drips from the walls and cheeks and runs to the Ganges or the gutter. There is nothing before or after India; it is the moment zero in the flesh, a permanent reincarnation of the origin molecule, inflation and collapse happening at the same time and in the same direction.


a glimpse

passages   LIFE LOTTERY | Against all intuition, this is not a picture that speaks for itself. It doesn’t tell the whole story and is easy to misinterpret. One might toss it into a cliché-box somewhere in the mind’s attic, where it gathers dust quickly. Yes, these children are poor, but they are not “pity-poor.” They oughtn’t to be thought of as “aww these poor kids.” It doesn’t do their strength and fortitude and grace any justice. It denies them the agency to make the best of a hard lot. They have lives. They play, they laugh. Probably more than their spoiled cousins elsewhere. Having less is not the problem here; but having little or no access to the most basic resources, rendering food, shelter, hygiene, healthcare and education daily struggles, is a fundamental injustice. Pity doesn’t help these kids, nor does indifferent awareness. Only action can level out the odds of an arbitrary life lottery. We don’t choose the circumstances we are born into and there is little to no merit in where we end up being when given a winning ticket. A false sense of entitlement keeps us from redistributing resources and opportunities in this world more evenly – from the life lottery winners to the runner ups.

passages   GOLDEN GREEN | With a harvest so golden green came the luxury to forget for a moment; forget about the previous year’s drought and those floods the season before that. Their pay was not measured in labor, sweat, dirt or time, but in luck – existential luck – and so their fate was never fully in their own calloused hands, but in the hand they got dealt by the capricious mother of all, queen of spades.

Harvest season in Tamil Nadu, India
An elderly man on a night bus in India

passages   ELDERLY RESILIENCE | Being old takes a lot of experience; you don’t get there overnight. But the journey drives resilience, especially when it’s bumpy. Like in places where it’s literally bumpy, and where life is rarely on time, which can make any mundane task an endurance contest. For those elderly, a loooong and d-e-l-a-y-e-d sleeper bus ride halfway across India is an easy-breezy trip.


   LIVES I’VE NEVER LIVED | When I see you and the place you call home so tenderly, it reminds me of a life I’ve never lived, a dream I’ve never dreamed; but my longing is painless, my melancholy sweet, my smile pure.

Everybody raved about Goa and Goa’s raves, and it was obvious that there wouldn’t be much India there. But throw a rock and you’ll hit an expat on a scooter.

Goa / India · 2015   tropical nest

A beach in Goa, India
Cluster of houses in Jodhpur, India

Jodhpur / India · 2015   brick box



Tamil Nadu / India · 2018   ocean on her

Tamil Nadu / India · 2018   friends dance






places / stories

Delhi / Juggling Juxtapositions

My first distinct memory of India is a cliché cow, walking into a train station with human confidence and swagger to take a significant dump in the sultry waiting hall before lying down and calling it a holy day. Right the next memory is Delhi’s mega-modern metro that served the route between the capital and the future – bright, AC-cold, liberal signs pointing out seats for differently abled people, not “The Disabled.” What more is there to say? India is big on juggling juxtapositions. You could throw it a ball, a burning knife, and a cow, and it would just keep going.


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Delhi / India · 2015   open to all religions



Delhi / India · 2015   pink future


Rajasthan / Fairy Functions

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Pushkar / India · 2015   desert colors


Pushkar / India · 2015   cow clan


To reach Rajasthan, you had to take a night train, step off in the morning, trip, and fall into that tale. The desert state was pure fairy dust, or maybe just dust, but at least that’s real, and what’s the difference really? Was that an elephant at the traffic light just now? Udaipur, Jaipur, Jodhpur, the Rs rolling like purrs – those city names sounded exactly what the wave functions of their alleyways looked like.



Jodhpur / India · 2015   something is burning


Jaipur / India · 2015   sitting on water



Udaipur / India · 2015   water town


Udaipur / India · 2015   an everyday architectural rainbow


Agra / The Density of Love

Woman with Sari at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India

Agra / India · 2015   Sari Safari


Taj Mahal seen through a gateway, Agra, India

Agra / India · 2015   gateway gander


White marble, the complexion of light, for her, for love. Taj Mahal. Makes you wonder about the density of love, if love is burying your third wife out of six after she died in childbirth with kid number 14. Taj Mahal. Not all that romantic maybe. But Agra had more than a marble heart. When you looked at its fabric from up close, you saw right down to the rumbling guts and a little past those you saw a crazed soul that was always busy.


A group of men taking pictures at the Taj Mahal, Agra, India

Agra / India · 2015   peephole window


A couple taking picture at the Taj Mahal in India

Agra / India · 2015   picture perfect


Mumbai / The Melody, Louder

People gathering on rocks by the sea at Haji Ali Dargah mosque in Mumbai, India

Mumbai / India · 2018   people on the rocks


I’ve been to Mumbai, and I’ve been back to Mumbai, and I’ll be back again, but I need to stop brushing it and start running my fingers deep through that thick mane, because I know it’s a harp with many million strings, and I want to hear the melody, loud and louder, until well after I cut my fingers.


View from an apartment building in Chandivali, Mumbai, India

Mumbai / India · 2018   crawling metal


Apartment building in Chandivali, Mumbai, India

Mumbai / India · 2018   apartment hive



Mumbai / India · 2018   the calm after the storm


Kerala / Mountain Tea and Brackish Sea

Woman walking through rice paddies in Kerala, India

Kerala / India · 2015   into the rice



mountain tea and brackish sea,

twister road and houseboat,

a mix of tricks,

a flavor a little different

Tea plantations in Kerala, India

Kerala / India · 2015   neon tea


Houseboats in Kerala, India

Kerala / India · 2015   water road


Tamil Nadu / Two Mini-Lives


Tamil Nadu / India · 2015   berry


Tamil is not a language. It’s a melody. Soft and round like sea gooseberries and with a wave-like rhythm. It comes after the people who speak it.



Tamil Nadu / India · 2018   English Day


Making fabric from twine in India

Tamil Nadu / India · 2018   little fashion robot


Tamil Nadu / India · 2018   work day


Toothbrushes pinned to a door in Tamil Nadu, India

Tamil Nadu / India · 2018   no bathroom, toothbrushes yes


Marina Beach in Chennai, India

Chennai / India · 2018   beach people


Chennai was a smoothie of cement and trees that Lord Rama and his monkey army had poured out by the beach. And all that stuck to you and grew on you until you were all covered in it without any desire to wash it off. Two fine mini-lives I’ve lived there, a few years apart, setting an interval for future returns. AID India was a wonderful nonprofit to work with – the right mix of smart compassion and down-to-earth grassroots proximity. So long friends.


A fruit store in Chennai, India

Chennai / India · 2018   ripe night




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