Letters to India – 1 – Monsoon and Mangoes

Amidst the clouds, the airplane drifts to a familiar, colorful mural of you and I fill your vastness in my 2-inch glasses. The tiring journey of several hours culminates into a burst of energy to witness this contrasting panorama – the belly of slums against the skyscrapers; the struggling traffic of cars wider than roads and millions of cellphones screaming in torn pockets.

Outside the airport, the humid monsoon air welcomes me. The airport has improved but not the scene outside. The overpowering stench, hustling drivers and cramped taxis always remind me of your love and indifference.

I see you in strange yet similar faces – faces that speak many languages; relish three dozen cuisines and boast of even more when it comes to attire. And I see your old, majestic charm eroding in the name of global connectivity.

The pre-monsoon arrives in northern half of you as if eager to meet me. I pull out plastic chairs in the small patio watching the endless downpour. The heavier drops beat the pavement – releasing the musky smell, suddenly making me hungry. I watch rest of the evening chewing hot pakoraas, the lazy slurping of chai and monsoon tap dance.

Are mangoes still around? I wonder. The next day, I get several types – langdaa, badaam, dusheri, chosa – some I have enjoyed every year and others I have only imagined how they tasted. Every time I sink my teeth into the delicious flesh, I feel blessed to experience your pulse alive in me.

Several weddings are marked on the calendar and I set out into the scorching heat turning up sarees and matching jewellery. I feel accomplished after buying less but scanning it all. The extravagant Indian weddings are places to look at others at the time when fashion and styles have become so diverse. One simply cannot stand out. It is better to stay as a spectator.

The wedding requires us to travel by train. Due to rain, the platform is under the attack of flies and smeared with loose mud. I watch a janitor who throws buckets of water to sweep away flies and lumps pf soil. I see hawkers arranging magazines and beaded purses.  No one is interested in their merchandise.  Soon, the train arrives with several people hanging just an inch away from the platform.

The cars slither away from mayhem to small fields, huts and patches of trees. Your overflowing pockets of puddles and raging rivers remind that monsoon will continue to flood whether you need it or not. The minimalist landscape that decorates you stretches between mid-size towns and vacant railway stations. While some parts of the world are overwhelmed with technology, these co-ordinates on your face have stood still in time.

For the next few days, I will get dressed up,eat delicacies and dance for hours. This will repeat until the show is over and the dresses run out. Perhaps, then it will be time to pay attention to the shabbily fenced fields, poor households where a lot of you hides in darkness while a delta of you glitters with excess wealth and stardom.

It has been three weeks and it is time to start the next leg. Mangoes and monsoon have remained a constant companion and while the heat was never enough to dry the clothes, it was always sufficient to drive us nuts. I collect my memories and as you bid goodbye here with tight hugs and while you also await me at the next destination with open arms -I hold your hand and move on.

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4 thoughts on “Letters to India – 1 – Monsoon and Mangoes

  1. So good. Reads better than any travel column. I really want to try these mangoes you tasted, I love mangoes. I’ll pass on the monsoons though. 🙂

    I appreciate how what you’ve painted here, the welcoming sights, sounds, tastes, and the vast landscape. India sounds magical.

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