A distant neighbor (not an oxymoron!) came over to meet me, and the first thing she blurted was: “Black, black thai gayu”. Nodding affirmatively, I wondered for a second if she was referring to the pollution, the grey monsoon clouds or the general gloom due to stock markets crash, until it hit me that my very visible tan was being referred to! While I appreciate the direct communication that comes knocking on your door in India, the level of sensitivity amused me having become used to more ‘coated’ communication.
It also made me wonder that what is it about fairness of the skin that is given so much weight to. Not only is it a source of ego but an unjustified basis for admiration. 10-15 years back, I had come across a lady in rags begging for alms. I thought she had the most beautiful features and could have easily bagged a Miss India title. Yes, maybe beauty does lie in the eyes of the beholder.
Traveling through India it has been refreshing to see the variety of colors, sights, people and landscapes. Has me mesmerized. I have been unable to resist the urge to just click away. I found so much beauty in the defiant eyes of a bandhini-clad woman, the seeking eyes of an old mother, the wrinkles of an old chacha, the pink nose of an otherwise scruffy pup, the aggressive drive of women waiting to get off a Virar local or siblings fighting over the last bite of an ice-cream. Eyes speak volumes-looking at or looking away.
I have been searching for the beauty of a smile that comes from the heart. Having seen it even in the poorest of the poor people, it makes me wonder if mental stresses aren’t more overpowering than any kind of physical stress. Also, are the poor more carefree as they live just in the moment- which the rich often fail to do, dwelling in what has been and what can be.
I had never imagined that my journey would be made so much more rewarding just being equipped with a camera. Despite being drenched in sweat, surrounded by heaps of garbage and flies, stranded on a platform without electricity for hours, crowds and cars literally attacking me- I was able to stay unfazed and even entertained just by observing and capturing this diversity
Not that I haven’t seen India before…just now observing it with fresh eyes and a more open and accepting soul.