India: Where Your Senses are Entranced

Two drummer boys found me to be a suitable customer for their handmade drums which they would sell on Commercial Street, in Bangalore. They would slap a few beats and perform unique finger gymnastics on the skin pad, creating all sorts of audio effects -- the kind that will make you say, "Yes I need that drum. And heck, why not?" Their faces, etched with the strain of a hard day's work, stared intently into mine, convincing me that I should own at least a small traditional drum they call a tabla. They sold them in three different sizes. Their persistence communicates that my small contribution to their trade will help them survive, if not, to buy food for another day.

In the background, the choruses of crowds walking in and out of stalls, bargaining on bangles, textiles, kurtas, sherwanis, and bags, while people chatter as they pace up and down the street, produce a numbing white noise. In front of where I stand with the two drummer boys, a busy main road is packed with cars driving on racing the one way street as if they are escaping a tsunami that just hit town. But Bangalore is in the middle south of India, far from any tsunami threat.

My ears have a bashing of the blaring honks that drivers offer unceasingly. In Malaysia, honking is the audio form of the middle finger directed towards  drivers who misbehave or fail to be considerate. In India, the horn is like a fistbump - where people either greet each other, warn other commuters of their intention to overtake, or to show the middle finger to inconsiderate drivers. But no one really holds a grudge on the road.

The streets have no lines to manage traffic. But everyone moves in some sort of organised chaos. Messy as it is, there is a lot of giving and taking. In some situations more taking - as drivers would hustle their way through, and at other times, more giving - when drivers would allow others to own their right of passage. Something that doesn't always happen in Malaysia, despite our civilized lines on the road and proper traffic facilities. Dust permeates the air. And begs me to question the definition and composition of oxygen in the air.

I liked the food in India. I've always loved Indian food. But for some reason, my body kept rejecting Indian food after my seventh or eighth day there. No, I wasn't sick by it. Somehow I found it unpalatable and couldn't hold up with the aroma of spices. I surprised myself with that. Typically, food and I get along quite well. Even if it didn't taste well, I would still be able to finish a dish. (Was taught not to waste food). But somehow, I couldn't handle the last few days of Indian food in India. Perhaps I was getting acquainted with the reality that I'm so used to having variety. Being in Malaysia, I'm spoilt with a broad and unique smorgasbord of dishes. I can practically find everything and anything here. And maybe it was this built-in capacity for variety that triggered an auto-rejection of the same type of food, spices, and texture in the Indian food I had five times a day.

I haven't written about the people and culture.That is deserving of a separate post. But my point in writing this was to paint the backdrop of my Indian adventure. 


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