It’s really hard to write about a dream coming true.
I’ve wanted to visit India since I was 13. It’s always been a place that made my visual cortex do somersaults and my neurons fire up with dopamine. It’s really hard to explain being drawn to a place simply because of the way it uses shapes and color, but I’m a visual person and I’m sure a lot of you reading this are too, so maybe you understand and I don’t have to feel self conscious about not explaining myself well.
Last year we remodeled our kitchen. Bear with me. This is related. I was obsessed with the idea of having marble countertops, but bid after bid for the material came in at a price point that I just couldn’t stomach. I was raised to be spend thrifty and marble was an extravagance. One day I realized that, if instead of marble I went with a much more affordable butcher block, we could divert the money we didn’t spend on the counter tops and finally take the trip to India I had been dreaming of for 16 years and that Mike and I had talked about since the beginning of our relationship.
I prepared myself to make the hard sell to Mike. “What if instead of marble countertops, we went to India?” I was ready for battle. I was ready to spend 4 days pretending to weigh the pros and cons with him to make him feel as if he was playing an active part in the decision making before I ultimately dropped the hammer and said we were going regardless of how he felt about it (#marriage). To my surprise, Mike was on board from the beginning and I started to plan the trip last summer for January.
We had about 18 days in country we could work with because of Mike’s work schedule and I don’t take vacations to relax. We didn’t stop once we got there. We visited 8 cities while in India. We took trains, planes, cars, and even one ox cart to get to our destinations. We filed through the Taj Mahal at dawn with hundreds of others and explored abandoned cenotaphs along the Betwa River by ourselves. I said “fleas be damned” and scratched the ears of just about every street dog I came across. We slept in a palatial 15th century fort one night and spent the next day helping kids practice their English greetings in a one room village school house. My red hair was stared at everywhere we went. We were offered hash a few meters away from where cremations were taking place along the Ganges. We saw very real poverty and did our best not to look away. I won’t go so far as to say India changed me as a person, but it changed me as a traveler.
Mike bought me a book about traveling in India years ago. It sat around our house for so long the spine became bleached from the sun. I should have known that the person who bought me that book wasn’t going to say no to me when I finally was brave enough to pursue that dream.
I didn’t spend my time there seeking out the most ascetic of monks and making their portrait. I didn’t want to pull aside every young woman in a sparkling sari with sindoor in her hair for a photograph. I could have spent my time cataloging the people there and bringing those photographs back home for my western friends to look at, but I didn’t. It’s been done before by people who are better at it than I would be. I simply wanted to come home with photographs that would make my visual cortex do somersaults and my neurons fire up with dopamine. That being said, here’s a humble sample of my photographs from India. They’re not revolutionary but I like them.
PS: I know there are lots of pictures of flying birds in this post. I know and I don’t care.
Mikey also made the most incredibly beautiful super 8 video of our India travels. You can watch it here. Every sound you hear in this video is found sound we recorded while over there.