Thursday, December 6, 2007

Holy Cow

I just finished reading a book, Holy Cow, by Sarah McDonald, and her ability to describe India is uncanny. She makes no attempt to explain it, but decribes it bang on. It makes me feel better for going through the same issues, confrontations, and facing the same ethical, philisophical, and moral conundrums. No answers, but plenty of food for thought... Here are some excerpts:

"Jonathan drags me from their party, for as I ride the aftershocks, I begin to regurgitate my repressed memories of why I never wanted to come here again. It's a vomit of hatred and a rambling rage against the bullshit, the pushing, the shoving, the rip-offs, the cruelty, the crowds, the pollution, the weather, the begging, the performance of pity, the pissing, the shitting, the snotting, the spitting, the farting.
As I hear myslef rant I begin to hate myself for hating - for being so middle class and pampered and comfortable that I should now be so shell-shocked. I am shaken to my core; the ground, that stable and strong bed beneath me has moved and it's stirred something once rock-solid within. I put my head in my hands and cry."

"It's a bizarre scene - full of foreigners trying to figure India out. I'm beginning to think it's hopeless. India is beyond statement, for anything you say, the opposite is also true. It's rich and poor, spiritual and material, cruel and kind, angry but peaceful, ugly and beautiful, and smart but stupid. It's all extremes. India defies understanding, and for once, for me, that's okay...India is in some ways like a hall of mirrors where I can see both sides of each contradiction sharply and there's no easy escape to understanding."

Matt and Emma sit staring out the window with their mouths agape, much as I did nearly two years ago in the taxi to Rishikesh. They're aghast at the putrid-smelling mokeys beside the road, the psychedelic movie posters, the scarecrows keeping crows off partially built buildings, the tough female road workers shovelling bitumen, the matted hair of the street shildren, and the towns with more temples than Chinese take-aways. They scream 'Fuck' and flinch every time the car swerves to avoid head-on collisions with trucks, cars and slow-moving tractors. They take photos of the chillies drying on the road and the people stacking hay. They attempt to plug their ears to the blast of the horns and endlessly politely repeat 'no thank you' to the people who push and invade their space every time we stop and get out of the car."

"When we open the creaking door and turn on the single light bulb, the floor moves as cockroaches scatter. It's then that I realize I've made a huge mistake. Rebecca and I are used to India, and are almost unshockable, but for Emma and Matt this is all too much, too soon. Matt is concerned about the filth, the lack of sanitation, the chance of disease...Emma is suffering from chemical poisoning, overheating, dehydration, and sensory overload - she also has a bad cold and is covered in a film of sticky black dirt...
'What the fuck are they doing? They're worshipping the Virgin Mary like she's another god. She's the bloody mother of Jesus. And why have they shaved their heads? There's nothing in the Bible about giving God your hair. Christ, this is just berserck, it's too bizarre.'
She begins to sob. I've hardly ever seen Emma get upset about anything."

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