India. For as much as I thought I was prepared for the cacophony and crowds, I was overwhelmed. So many people, so much noise, just so . . . much. I understand the meaning behind driving with horns is to tell other drivers what your intention is, but when everyone is honking, how the hell do you decipher the code?
I dropped my bags at the hotel and set off to explore the hot, dusty streets of the blue city of Jodhpur. And by “explore,” I mean pressing myself up against the roadside buildings so as not to get run over, a task made more difficult by avoiding the piles. Piles of garbage. Piles of shit: cow, dog, human. Piles of greens left for the cows to eat (i.e., fuel for the shit piles). The way-too-close proximity of whizzing tuk-tuks and their constant, screeching horns made me want to curl up in a weeping ball and raise my fists to the sky, demanding to know where the beauty was in this mess.
And I wondered for five days, never even bothering to look at my photographs. But when I finally did, there they were: the women. In the middle of the chaos, there was grace. Elegance. And the beauty I had been seeking.
“Elegance isn’t about being noticed; it’s about being remembered.” – Habeeb Akande
I had entire conversations with some of these ladies, neither of us understanding a word of what the other was saying. And it was magnificent.
“The most beautiful tide is the sweep of your heart against mine.” – Sanober Khan
The common language we did have? The photograph. Charming and curious, they would look at the image on the back of my camera and smile, giving me the Indian head wobble. I couldn’t have asked for more. To paraphrase Lewis Carroll, I knew who I was when I arrived, but I changed a few times since then.
“Another world is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” – Arundhati Roy
“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” – John Muir
“Here in this body are the sacred rivers; here are the sun and moon as well as all the pilgrimage places.” – Saraha
“But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world.” – Mary Oliver