essays | places
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.
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.
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.
passages 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
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.
Delhi / India · 2015 open to all religions
Delhi / India · 2015 pink future
Rajasthan / Fairy Functions
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
Agra / India · 2015 Sari Safari
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.
Agra / India · 2015 peephole window
Agra / India · 2015 picture perfect
Mumbai / The Melody, Louder
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.
Mumbai / India · 2018 crawling metal
Mumbai / India · 2018 apartment hive
Mumbai / India · 2018 the calm after the storm
Kerala / Mountain Tea and Brackish Sea
Kerala / India · 2015 into the rice
mountain tea and brackish sea,
twister road and houseboat,
a mix of tricks,
a flavor a little different
Kerala / India · 2015 neon tea
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
Tamil Nadu / India · 2018 little fashion robot
Tamil Nadu / India · 2018 work day
Tamil Nadu / India · 2018 no bathroom, toothbrushes yes
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.
Chennai / India · 2018 ripe night
when you set out to see Everest, but Everest doesn’t care