Not even a lexicon would give me the words

Remnants of my Mehandi still reflect on the palms of my hands and sides of my feet. My fingers meet my palms as I rub them lightly against it. I look down at the top of my hands and then at my palms, flipping my hands back and forth with determination in hopes of some kind of hidden revelation. My days in India are obscure. They seem to hide between Reverie and Reality. It’s as if I’m depending on Her, a tattooed memento of India, to help me remember, recall the details that swept by me in haste leaving nothing but a foggy picture. Its deep red color (which they say the darker the Mehandi’s reflection on your skin, the more your husband loves you.) has ceased, resembling leftovers of what once was beautiful artwork.

It was only a matter of time before I would be asked, “So what did you like about Bombay,” my husband’s friend asked me while sitting on our vibrant blue Victorian look-a-like chair which has some resemblance to Indian patterns.  My eyes casually shift to my husband and then back to his friend, as my mind makes the attempt to conjecture a single word, and if I was lucky, a sentence that can prove I was even in Bombay. I hadn’t been asked about India since my return. (After two weeks, I’m still trying to defeat my jetlag as waking up before sunrise has become a curse. I have had no time to gather my thoughts, organize them and make sense of them.) My thoughts flickered in my mind and all I saw was that accursed fog hovering over my memories.  Muddled thoughts pushed through and made their surface with speediness. It was like a fog evaporating over the hilltop wanting to reveal it’s hidden beauty to passers-by, yelling, “Wait! I have something for you to see. Just give me a minute.”

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-“I liked the dhobi ghat.” What the hell did I just say? I liked the dhobi ghat? What am I? Five? That sounds like a child who can’t think of anything better to say after spending an hour outdoors running up to me, exasperated, sharing the latest breaking news, “The grass is green.” Or, “The sky is blue.”  His eyes were fixed on me, and I couldn’t discern if they were startled at my stupidity or sincerely still interested. I got my response within minutes. He asked again, “So what else did you like about Bombay?”  My first response was clearly mind numbing. I looked outside my window and fixed my eyes on the lamppost that stands diagonally from my view as the words came out of my mouth, “The slums were interesting.” What’s wrong with me? I sounded like a nimwit. I may have well said, “I liked the food”, or “The people were neat,”  (which by the way, I despise that word ‘neat’ when used as an adjective to describe a person or place. It shows a lack of depth.)  A perfectly coherent, simple question was asked and I stumbled over my words. I became mute. It was shameful. He asked me that question thrice, and with little integrity left, I surrendered. (My loathings are quite simple, stupidity being at the top) I was waving the white flag as I asked him to pardon my idiocy and scripted responses. I wanted out of that conversation so I ended it with, “I loved the culture.” So much for Redemption. I was disappointed at myself for failing to articulate the very sentiments that I do harbor of my experience in Hindustan, but how can I elucidate those feelings when everything still remained unexamined and opaque to me.

7 Comments

  1. Indrani January 6, 2013

    That feeling is so close to our heart.waitg to read more

    Reply
    • soulconalas January 9, 2013

      I’m happy to hear it has touched you. More soon. Thank you for reading and commenting. Means a lot.

      Reply
  2. Yessy January 10, 2013

    I love what you are doing with the website and of course I love what was written here. You will remember and you will be able to put it into words soon.

    Reply
    • soulconalas January 10, 2013

      Yessy,

      As always thank you for your support. It’s a work in progress and it is a long road, but an exciting one! Refreshing!

      You’re one of my biggest supporters. I’m eternally grateful.

      Reply
  3. daleymuse January 19, 2013

    My friend, your post addresses a very real dilemma to which I can often relate. It seems that, the more rich the experience (typically travel- or culture-related), the fewer the words I’m able to find to describe it.

    You know how some words, after being translated from one language to another, often distort the original meaning? (At times a corresponding word doesn’t even exist!) Well, I believe this to occasionally be true in the translation that occurs between the experience and the language used to express it. Sometimes there are just no appropriate words.

    By all means, keep looking for the words, but the search in no way negates the experience. In fact, it might even increase its value.

    Reply
    • soulconalas January 23, 2013

      This post has caused a lot of talk and mental grief on whether or not I liked/enjoyed India. Some said, if I can’t put it into words I must have not genuinely liked it. That’s so far from the truth! Yes, there are times where I cannot come up with the right words to describe what I feel, what I see, what I taste, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not relishing in the moment. On the contrary, it’s so much easier for me to find the words to express aversiveness.

      Thank you for your insight and sharing your own experience with me. It helped validate my feelings.

      Reply
  4. sanjeetsen July 1, 2013

    Putting my thinking cap and trying to answer that question – what do i like about B’lore – lot of pointers and guess the small things which we take for granted are the ones which actually bind you to a place….sigh i still can’t answer in a sentence neither articulate – will wait to hear from someone who can actually answer this

    Reply

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