I never thought I would be so glad to be back n India. I mean, I really had mixed feelings about the place, being a woman in a patriarchal culture, being tested at every moment.
But I am so glad to be back here. The warmth, the diversity, the loudness and exuberance of people, the honking horns, the millions of smells, the street culture, the barber shops the size of a kitchen pantry, the curled-up shoe repairmen on blankets, namkeen merchants chopping chilis and onions, families bathing at water pumps, and maroon pan juice drooling down trees.
And Calcutta with its kind people and 19th century dilapidated architecture is surprising at every corner. Last night we ended up in a horrid hotel crawling with ants in the backpacker districts (there was a traffic jam and a communication error but that is another story). We both wanted a good night's sleep so badly and the mattress was 3 cm at its thickest. We were both close to tears and fighting nicotine urges like crazy. Also, it is hard to curtail the public displays of affection. Walking hand in hand , people look at Chris as though he has his finger up my nose. We have decided to ignore the glares. No smooching in public, but geez, hand holding? We are such rebels.
Today was much better. We got a great room at the "broadway hotel". IT is a grand, dilapidated old building with spacious rooms, comfy beds, dark wooden furniture, and light that comes through the windows seems to be from another century. Does that make sense?
Today we got a letter typed by a man with a typewriter sitting on a street flanked by a dozen men with typewriters and small desks with a stool beside them for customers. He added some of his own embellishments to Chris' dictated letter to his brother and charged us 8 rupees for the page. We also saw a bollywood movie (or half of it) that had a bizarre plot twist that took the couple to Thailand and the Indian embassy (!!!) so we left.
Thailand was a little disappointing, I have to say. I know I had some bad luck there with health and such, but I don't think I really *got* the culture. Overtly, it had so much more in common with the West and perhaps that is where my expectations went wrong. There is a very fragile Thai ego that I could not navigate around and a passive aggressive way of negotiating that made me want to scream. Bring on the Indian-style aggression. At least it is clear and laced with humour.