My clandestine affair with India began, if I remember quite precisely, in a lift. I was six. A strikingly handsome man of Indian descent stepped in, with his similarly striking wife. My mother and I couldn?t help but stare. After he stepped out at the sixth floor, my mother said to me: ?Girl, if you marry an Indian man, you can give me very good-looking grandchildren.?
I still don?t have the heart to tell her I wasn?t looking at the man. I was thinking, in fact, of India, and how the word rolled off my tongue with such mystery and aplomb.
Cut to present day, modern Singapore, a pappadum addiction and many eyebrow threadings later. I?m sitting in a morning class listening to my lecturer drone on about resumes and other ridiculous stuff tailored for the future accountant/ banker this school is so good at producing. I?m suddenly seized with the brilliant idea? I HAVE to be in India this December. I have to, I want to, I?d love to; I?m going to be thinking about it until I do, and even then I wouldn?t be able to get enough of it.
I get asked a lot: Why India? Why not? Why? Because I love India. Why do you love India? Because I do, and why don?t you? But where do I begin?
I?ve constantly said that falling in love with India is a little like falling in love with the ugliest girl in class. You want to scream your love from the mountains but you can?t ? people might laugh at you. You never thought you?d fall for her, it was such a remote possibility in the first place. But you did, and now you can?t expect anyone to understand, unless they?ve fallen for someone like her before.
To say India is an assault on the senses is putting it very lightly. To be sure, if you wanted to, you could visit her and insulate yourself perfectly from her ? hire a driver, never walk on the streets, stay in the Oberoi, never break into a sweat despite the heat. But what?s the fun in that? It would be comfortable, insulated, clean, everything India isn?t. It takes a kind of madness to love cities where the PSI is constantly 300-400, there?s a dalit shooting himself up with heroin under the bridge, traffic is chaos and but then so is everything else.
But you can?t explain away an emotional attachment. Or maybe I suffer from some distant variant of Stockholm Syndrome.