India is everything.
It is every wonderful thing you can think of. It is majestic mountains, stunning beaches, and jungles filled with thrilling wildlife. It is rich historic and cultural traditions and worldly cosmopolitan sensibilities. It is color, color, and more color from the flowering trees to the painted houses to the vivid sarees and kurtas worn by women everywhere. It is amazing craftsmanship that produces anything from filigree jewelry to inlaid wooden tables to carved marble using the same techniques that have been used for countless generations. And the food! Oh, the wonderful food!
It is also every terrible thing you can think of. It is horrific poverty living unseen right next to unimaginable wealth. It is traffic without rules and without sidewalks. It is
burning piles of garbage that make you gag as you walk by. It is open sewers running into lakes that catch fire in the middle of busy neighborhoods. It is profound overpopulation taxing the available resources and perpetuating the broken system that provides education, quality healthcare, and opportunities only to the lucky few. It is generations of desperation that lead people to act in manipulative and corrupt ways even when they no longer need to.
India is also everything in the middle. Normal people living their normal lives, going to work, taking care of their families, and occasionally enjoying the wonderful things or suffering from the terrible ones.
India is everything. In the midst of this vast everything, we’ve created a life that we are now dismantling. As we pack and sell off our belongings, I’m reflecting on the things that I will miss when we leave, from the tiny and insignificant to the more profound.
I will miss my friends. I have loved being a part of an international community, getting to know people from around the world who all find themselves in Bangalore for different reasons. Some are here because work brought them or their partner here. Some are here because they fell in love with someone whose home is here. Some are here because their Indian heritage summoned them back. Some have always been here because Bangalore is home. I love hearing stories of lives so different from mine, and finding those common threads that connect us.
I will miss Farrah and Kaveri in particular. They are my co-authors of a book about Bangalore, and now beloved friends. Farrah introduced me to Shanti Bhavan and was my co-manager of the OWC North Region. Kaveri taught me more about culture and India than I ever imagined understanding. Together, they have given my time here joy and meaning, and it has been such an honor to get to know them while getting to know this big, crazy city.
I will miss the view from our 16th floor apartment, looking out over a bustling little neighborhood with the downtown skyscrapers in the distance. I will miss the mysterious fireworks that we can see somewhere in the city on most evenings while sitting on our balcony (maybe it’s a sporting event? maybe it’s a wedding? maybe it’s just people having fun?), and I’ll even miss the mysterious drumming from the temples or processions that we never understand and occasionally resent as they keep us awake.
I will miss the children with their enormous eyes and happy smiles, calling out “hello, auntie!” or “hello, mam!” or “hi, what is your name?” as I walk through a neighborhood or park.
I will miss zipping around town in the back of a nimble three-wheeled auto/rickshaw/tuk-tuk (names are interchangeable) with a driver who miraculously steers through crevices in traffic that feel smaller than the vehicle.
I will miss the trees of Bangalore: the huge old rain trees with their thick branches and abundant shade, the flowering trees planted long ago throughout the city to ensure that something is always blooming (right now it feels like we are surrounded by gulmohar trees dense with bright orange blossoms creating a colorful canopy throughout the city), the palm trees that sway high above us.
I will miss my weekly power walks around the old Sankey Tank reservoir with a wonderful group of women, followed by coffee and continued conversation.
I will miss the temples that dot most blocks throughout the city, some large and ornate, and some just tiny structures housing deities next to trees wrapped with ribbons.
I will miss getting into a taxi and seeing the deities on the dashboards: maybe a plump, happy elephant-headed Ganesha; maybe a flying Hanuman, the monkey god, flying from the rearview mirror; maybe an ornate Lakshmi, the goddess of abundance, blessing the day’s work.
I will miss the gorgeous bright colors of Indian women’s clothing. A bright pink patterned kurta over chartreuse leggings in an opposing pattern with yet another color or pattern introduced in the dupatta, a scarf draped over the front of the body and trailing down the back. A red and gold saree draped beautifully around a woman while shopping or working. A wild rainbow of color whenever passing by a bus stop.
I will miss the casual, seemingly effortless grace of saree-clad women swaying down the street with baskets balanced on their heads and children perched on their hips.
I will miss the strange thrill of approaching a 7-way intersection without lights or stop signs, navigated by a crush of cars, buses, motorbikes, pedestrians, and cows, everyone calm and unconcerned as they make their way through.
Speaking of cows, I will miss the wildlife of the city: the calm and stately cows that wander down lanes and highways alike, stopping for a rest wherever they please; the goat and pig families that happily root through the garbage piles or rare grassy spots in empty lots; and those whimsical, pesky monkeys that always make me smile no matter how many times I’m told of the dangers they pose.
And the food! I will miss the food: crispy dosas filled with spicy potatoes, accompanied by flavorful coconut chutney; rich, smoky dal makhani that has simmered over a fire for 24 hours before serving; delicious breads stuffed with potato or cheese or onions (or a combination of them all!); weekly meals prepared by our own incredible cook who introduced us to foods we never imagined; the decadent brunches at the big hotels, full afternoon affairs with free-flowing drinks, bountiful food, and often good friends to share it all.
I will miss the incredible travel. It has been so amazing to always have a next trip to anticipate, and to have seen so much of the diversity of India and Sri Lanka. I will be processing all that we saw for years to come. And I suspect I’ll get antsy now that I’m used to such frequent travel!
There is so much more I could mention, but really I will just miss my life here, one that has allowed me time to breathe, time to draw, time to just stare out the window. I know that soon my mindset will begin to shift and I will begin to look forward to our life back in Portland, but for now I am filled with gratitude for this experience and a bit of sorrow at its ending.