Monday, 24 August 2015

Hinglish for Beginners

I'm in India.

My heart is on fire. 
My tastebuds are awake. 
My sense of belonging to one giant human family has never been more palpable. 
Here is why:

Like many travelers before me I too had that somewhat shocking first experience of getting out of the Delhi airport only to be slammed with the heat (GARMI) & humidity (HUMAS) and the non-stop soundtrack of honking traffic (PARIVAHAN) - after all, the colorful back of every truck politely requests "Horn Please!"

The weather app prepared me for it - it's August at the tail end of the Monsoon season in Northern India. 
What I wasn't prepared for is what I discovered when I met the real India.

KHANDAN - Generations

Unlike North America, where grandparents visit only on Thanksgiving, India has the watchful eyes and the tender hands around their little ones all of the time. People live in close quarters and kids are free to run around with their siblings yet always return to that one safe lap waiting for them. 

BHAIYA - Big brother

He is 15, his sister is 1 - and just as if she was the rarest of flowers her big brother carried her and proudly showed her to me when I visited, bragging she can already walk. And she has no diaper!!! 
This 7 yr old friend of mine, who followed our group all throughout his rural village, tucked at my sleeve then ran away with impressive speed - knowing we will pass by his home. Then just as we walked by he presented me with all the glow of the big brother: the royal highness his baby sister! He abruptly woke her up from her nap - hence the grumpy look - so that I can hold her in my arms. It is considered good luck.
And finally - my own big brother in India: 
World, meet Ashwani - my big brother. And a driver who picked me up from the airport at almost midnight of India's Independence Day. And when he folded over in Iaugher seeing my dumbfounded face as I attempted to sit at the front right seat forgetting that's where the stirring wheel is - I knew we would get along just great. No - better than great!
Far from his village of birth in the mountainous Himachal Pradesh, driver-ji - the nickname I coined for him - is a genius at what he does: navigating the Indian traffic as if motorcycles and trucks and an abundance of seemingly suicidal pedestrians and ignorant cows were not interrupting his path every single second. If I had to drive here I would have stayed at the first intersection for about a month. Then ran over someone within the next 60 seconds, guaranteed. How on earth did Ashwani see in pitch dark a black cow lying on the Delhi - Jaipur highway as we conquered the "golden triangle" in 2.5 days - his three still alive and greatful passengers will never understand. His art is driving (GADI CHALANA) and he is pure genius! 
Thank you (DANYAVAD)!!!

Perhaps this is a good time to tackle what everyone knows will be waiting for them in India - witnessing extreme poverty and slums (JHUGI JHOPRI). 
My most heartbreaking moment was when we passed by one of Delhi's biggest slums that lies a busy highway across from the mountain - stray dogs, cows and pigs roaming up its very top in search of food. And the sinking feeling when driver-ji rolled down the window and the eye-watering stench overtook the last cubic millimeter of air and I realized it is not a mountain at all - it is an insurmountable pile of garbage. And people live mere meters away from it. And that is where their kids play. And all their kids will know. Forever. Tears.

But then again - in the midst of ruins and piles of broken bricks and dust and potholed roads and black slushy canals...
all I saw was smiles (MUSKURANA) and happiness (KUSH). Somehow - I don't know how - but living conditions or amount of rupees in the pocket doesn't seem to matter - regardless whether we were in a rural village...
... or in the more urban setting.
All I ever saw was joy (ANAND) - smiling, happy people. 

My heart is on fire. Now you know why. 
(To be continued)


  1. how wonderful, you, your journey, the people and all of your smiles are. Thank you for sharing my dear sweet wonderful friend. xoxo Kerry.

  2. You've brought back so many memories all of which I treasure of my time in Bharat, especially Vicky. I hope to see him soon as I will be returning to Mother India as soon as circumstances permit.