Trigger warning: I'm trying to be a little less joke-y because it's becoming a little bit annoying to me, but it's honestly so hard to write about my trip to India without making it unbearably sarcastic or dripping with some sort of Wisdom.
I remember coming to India and thinking I'd never tell both romantic and true stories about the trip. I was standing in my friends' apartment looking through the gritty steel bars out at Chennai and thinking I'd been someplace like this before, and it was too easy to compare. In my mind I've got categories that spell out Undeveloped Nations ("Busy", "Crowded", "Colorful" and "Chaotic But With Its Own Beautiful Logic: I'll Never Judge But Will Definitely Buy Your Overpriced Mugs, Native Woman" are tags for this) and Developed Nations (hereunder we find the Ugly--almost the entire United States, let's be real--and the Beautiful--most Western European cities). These might not be correct or fair or Right (often confused with Righteous), but years of indoctrination, cultural influence and lots and lots of stereotypes have made me so, or I have made myself so.
My sweaty forehead to show you I went to a Hot Place. There isn't much more to say about this, except that it was taken at the Qutub Minar outside New Delhi.
I remember coming to India and thinking that I wanted to learn something, and I wanted to change. There wasn't anything in particular about myself that was bothering me at the time (I know it's a horrible sentence, just bear with me and try not to read it out loud), except for perhaps my tendency to make everything self-reflexive and Life Lesson-y.
This is a filler picture since I don't have any emblematic photographs of my Thoughts or Reflections, so this is a pretty and interesting bowl filled with something gross that still managed to be surprisingly photogenic. From a coir factory on our way to Alppuzha, Kerala.
When I came to India it felt as if I was split in two consecutive personalities or ways of reacting. The first Johanne (J1) would always think something about a situation, and then the second Johanne (J2) would sweep in to save the day and tell the first me that I should be more culturally sensitive, that every other White Female Tourist probably thinks the same, and that I'm obviously seeing this from an imperial standpoint (though to be fair we Norwegians never colonized. Except for the Vikings, but that HARDLY counts, since it was more a sort of doing stuff (raping, pillaging, burning villages) and then just leaving. And for my American friends, we were the first to get to you but left after non-hostile interactions with Native Americans. I know I'm back home in Norway when self-righteousness feels natural and perfectly good to me!).
So I've got two Johannes, and one of them is heavily censoring the other one, telling her she should be more appreciative of the culture and yada yada yada.
J1 would be thinking that it was staggeringly noisy and messy and why is everybody staring at me?, while J2 would remind J1 that I'm a guest after all and this is their country and I should merely be a passive observer, and then J1 breaks through the door and I'm My Own Woman Goddamnit, I Deserve Some Respect, and Look I'm Even Wearing Indian Clothing No Such Tank Top Business!
My mind = complete chaos. I wonder if this is what every traveler to India experiences.
I also remember the months before I went there, and how I'd inevitably get two types of responses from everyone I told; either they'd be terrified and more or less tell me I'd be raped a thousand times before my first sunset on the continent, or they would explain to me that India was their spirit animal or country or whatever and that it was a very special place (told in a sort of seductive/drowsy whisper). Let me also mention that these were reactions post-India, even after I'd try to explain my side of the story, in which I tried not flattering either opinion. I probably came across as a terrified, PC tourist with an expensive education that taught her how not to say things as straightforward as possibly.
This is also from the Qutub Minar, I think. I just love lawnmowers because they remind me of home and summer, but here it seemed somewhat absurd. Plus the green grass UNCUT seems so much nicer and fresher than the dry and bristly grass that's been mowed.
Honestly, I haven't really talked that much about it since coming home either, and it's been quite a few months. Though that might also be because I'm an antisocial hermit that shies away from people I'm not related to by blood, and I'm suddenly sounding like I'm from the Norwegian equivalent of the Appalachians...
People ask (not just the Oh-how-was-India-let's-talk-about-your-mother-now, but actually ask), and I say "Weell, I don't know... I really don't know..." and then they know it's not going to be pretty or something, either way they don't seem to want to continue and so we leave it. And so I've just left it. I've left most of my thoughts about India, my real thoughts, somewhere behind, perhaps in the diary I was trying to maintain while there. The only times I've gotten to take a somewhat closer look at what I really thought has been while talking to the friend I traveled with for the entire trip, but it's satisfying in an attention-seeking way to also vent those frustration in a more or less public space.
So I'll try. I'll try to write something about India that isn't just about how you can get SUCH a good mango lassi there for like NO money at all and how people are SO friendly although they are SUPER poor because that is rot. This is a start.