To say that India is overwhelming is an incredible understatement. For me, someone who prefers the quiet of the countryside, it’s like filling a box with electrified rocks, sticking your head into it, and shaking it vigorously.
The sheer volume of people is staggering, but it’s not obvious on the sidewalks here like I imagine it would be in New York. Instead, the clog the roads, forming a single seething mass of honking, zipping motorbikes and rickshaws. Everything is covered in the dust and soot belched by the millions of two-stroke engines. The trees, which are grand by any measure, are turned from green to dull dray, so coated are they with pollution.
There is turmeric under the fingernails of my right hand, which I have been using to scoop food up in chapatti, just like my hosts. My attempts to use only one hand to eat have been less than perfectly successful, but I am trying, anyway. Soon we will leave for the menhandi, where our hand will be painted with henna. Yesterday’s menhandi, for Neha’s relatives, was done in the Maharashtrian style. Today’s, for Abhinav’s relatives, will be done in the Punjabi style. I am told this involves more music and dancing.