Friday, September 04, 2009

Retrospect

Sometimes I fear I'm getting inured to new experience; that maybe by virtue of having seen more of the world, each additional trek has become less a thing of wonder and discovery and more an experiment in logistics and achievement of photographic goals -- the travel equivalent of plotting how to beat the Baptists to the good lunch spots instead of listening to the sermon. India seemed to have confirmed this fear: not as exotic feeling as I'd hoped, not as eye-opening, not as jarring and stupefying and perplexing as I'd heard tales of. Watching the other tourists, ragged Lonely Planets poked inside equally ragged bags, dreadlocks and sandlewood necklaces hanging over slouchy t-shirts done up with images of gods and (somewhat incongruously) Che Guevara, I couldn't help wondering: what is it they are seeing that I am not?

But now when I spot ghee on the shelf in the store, I think about the man on the train to Fatehpur Sikri who fed me homemade sweets and told me about the near mystical health benefits of clarified butter. When I see a clear, unbroken Amman sky -- the same bright, cloudless scene as each day previous for the past three or more months -- I remember walking in the monsoon downpour of Delhi, thinking the most precious gift I could bring back to Jordan would be my sopping wet clothing to wring out over the dessicated soil. When I notice the kites flying over the Citadel, I recall their miniature versions being jerked and teased into brief airborne moments over the Indian slums laid out by the railway tracks. India was at its best as a series of vignettes framed by train windows and the open doors of tuk tuk cabs. My memory of it is best that way, too: little fragments of a bigger whole I can't take in all at once.

4 comments:

Lee said...

near mystical health benefits of clarified butter? I need to find this man.

Katie said...

Indeed, you have a soul mate living in Rajasthan. I briefly considered sending you some ghee through the pouch, but then recalled the earlier mishap with the fish sauce.

Don said...

Walker Percy wrote an essay on this phenomenon called "The Loss of the Creature"...

Lee said...

Oh yes, I was a popular man in the APO with the broken fish sauce in the mail trick. Well, next time we see each other need to clarify this situation.