Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bombastic Craptastic

I know I should be gentle, roll with the punches while exuding a gentle sort of generosity of spirit. But I cannot. I'm not a Buddhist, and I have reached the end of my rope:

Bombay, I bloody HATE YOU.

Don't get me wrong, there have been magical moments all around, and really- as a matter of fact it has been chock full of truly revelatory experiences.

Meeting Akshay, an amazing photojournalist who has exposed us to the high-end world of swank Bombay, of international correspondents and Bollywood industry elites shipped in from overseas for their skill and work ethic. A world of intrigue and morbidity (and with it, morbid curiosity, of course) was opened by this channel. Sadly, the slice of this life comes complete with 12 dollar cocktails and 20 dollar cover fees for discos. But what are you going to do? Live it up, while ye olde ventricles are pumping, methinks.

On the other side of the spectrum, there is Dharavi, the magnificently large, shockingly well-developed "slum" where I met the Shaik family who took wonderful care of us in many ways, feeding us night after night, assisting us in the markets so that we would not be ripped off, and treating 4 of us to a family day at Elephanta Island, a wonder of the old Hindu world.

Then there is the outright absurdity of being extras in a Bollywood movie, as a few of us were one night. The absolute crush followed by cat-fight of the lady-only cars on the train, the filth that streams off in the shower each night.

Alas, the endless stream of beggars, each more destitute and insistent than the last, the rivers of shit, the air so choked with pollution it has left me with some sort of respiratory illness, the pavement dwellers numbering in the hundreds of thousands, who live and die on the sidewalks and streets, entire families of do you reconcile these things?

Bombay will break your heart, in ways that you did not know it could be broken. I am a natural wanderer, who often imagines herself living in these far-flung places, eking out an existence amongst the monkeys and the flowers. But here, no. I say NO. My heart is simply not that resilient. I am not a machine, and all of the people who live here must make their compassion a mechanized thing in order to deal with the day to day.

I want to cry at least 30 times a day here, and yet I do not.

Bombay is a lyrical, rhapsodic place that is sustained on a thin gruel of hope; that very thing that keeps people here alive.

I may be hard, but I am also soft, and I find myself secretly everyone who claims to love this city, because I imagine that they either have no compassion or simply love suffering. That is not me.

Our (much, much) anticipated flight to Sri Lanka was cancelled after dramatic engine problems with the airplane. I am desperately happy that we are not on a defective craft, but Dios mio, I was looking forward to escaping back to my beloved Sri Lanka.

It will all be okay, I know this to be true. But even from the clutches of a 5-star hotel, I must tell you that I would rather be in our shoddy guest house in Sri Lanka.

Bombay, for all her reputed splendor (and in spite of her wonderful people) ranks very low on the list of places I believe people should visit.

India is not for the faint of heart, and Bombay is probably the worst of all.

And so tonight, half-drink on crappy beer, I cannot help but muse that Western influence is destroying the East.

I love you all, and wish that the world was a better place.



Anonymous said...

Thanks for the pictures. Hold on you'll be home soon. I sure that Chip and Dingo can't wait either

ruminations said...

I keep reading about how well India is doing. I guess Bombay got left behind. It sounds disgusting.
I hope you were more careful about what you ate and drank there.Maybe Delhi is a better place to be.

Kathy Hernandez said...

I hope by the time this comment gets to you you are out of Bombay. Sounds like hell on earth, and you've gotta feel sorry for the people that have no choice but to be there day after day for all of their lives.