You arrived at a time in my life when the seeds of change threatened to choke me with their growth. I was wading, through heartache, through questions with no answers and what I thought was an uncertain future. I wanted you to reveal things that could make me believe again. Feel again. And you did.
India, you showed me. Life unlike I have ever experienced. Frantic, sweltering, aromatic, hurried. But somehow, still slow and meditative. In the mornings I stretched my body against your grasses and breathed-- an eat pray love moment I love fiercely now. In the evenings I cloaked my body with ayurvedic oils and slept harder than I have in years.
India, you nourished me. Thick curries and daal. Naan bread that snapped back with each pull. Lentils so buttery I prayed over them twice. Chaat that made my hands sticky. Jelabi so sweet my tooth still aches at the thought.
India, you reminded me. How different yet utterly the same my brown skin is. The gawking looks of admiration and curiosity. How colonization has taken root in an attempt to make us forget. Forget how perfect we have always been. I sucked my teeth at the sight of fair-skinned women on every single advertisement. I smiled deeply into the eyes of brown girls who see those same billboards and may forget. I pray that they don’t.
India, you heightened my senses. Bright green phlegm against dusted roads. Cardamom stuffing itself in my nose like a sinus attack. Women the color of chestnuts draped in electric colored saris, the fabric winding itself down dirt roads, past sitting cows. A hamam treatment that sweat toxins from my body so intensely, I almost fainted. Bangles for each moment, colorful and shining under your sun.
I wore a bindi but felt it a mockery and wiped it off. I prayed but felt there were more answers. I studied your holy foods but was still hungry. What does this Westerner know of stillness? I did not let my eyes move from the truth. Poverty scattered across streets. Palatial hotels that mask this injustice in the tradition of their colonizers, with expensive cocktails and butlers. Women who fear public transportation and catcalling the same way I do, but with less means at times to fight back.
I drank ghee and let my digestive system reset, but not my liver. Ahmad, you made the best margaritas I have ever tasted. We laughed for hours. Lakshmi, you mouthed the words to soca songs with me and felt what my spirit feels each time. Enyinne, you held my deepest secrets in your hand.
The Taj Mahal showed me that there are sights even more magnificent in small corners. New Delhi gave me perspective and claustrophobia. I longed to read the language of Sufi poets and love myself fully at the mirror of palaces in Jaipur. I had not realized until that moment that this shining reflection was my own.