I am sitting in the Thar Desert of India bordering Pakistan camped in fluttery tents among the rising dunes. My flame colored sari dancing in the desert breeze, my mouth is still burning from lunch’s curry ( which I always order mouth singeing, eye watering, fiery spicy …if I am not bright red and crying after a meal it was definitely not hot enough!)
India is- (I search my catalogue of descriptive words) well; hmmm…(thinking) ….all in all-
A sensory overload. From the moment we touched down it was if all my sense were taken to a whole new level…
A spicy account of this colorful veiled world.
I find it fascinating that the hottest ( as in spicy) foods come from the hottest ( as in temperature) countries. Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner is a peppery experience of flavor. In one word, Curry.
The spice lingers on my tongue, sometimes so hot it feels like a hot coal. The spices are so rich, in a range of flavors- my favorite mirch bindy; a green okra curry the color of swamp moss. Each bite explodes with a burst of fresh chili and followed by the slow burning blend of coriander, ginger, garlic and of course curry accompanied by garlic naan and a fresh lime soda.
I closed my eyes in an Indian textile shop to “read” the carpets, saris and hangings by hand. I ran my fingers across intricate embroideries, antique pieces that took someone 24 months to create. I conjured up the scenes by touch. Soft fluttery scarves and cashmere throws seemed to melt in my hands and crisp silk saris that begged to be worn. My feet were caressed in soft leather pointy toed slippers, and sand had found its way between my toes and created a friction that made me seemingly aware of my two middle toes ( days go by without me thinking of those 2 toes). Hard stone steps led upwards to plush deep carpets, where I found myself wrapped in a deep blue sari and was instantly washed away in an Indian Ocean of silky comfort.
Aromas differ so vastly just walking just walking a block in Jodphur. Wafts of jasmine oil are overcome by pungent camel dung and quickly blown away by the heavy caustic exhaust of a passing rickshaw. A veiled woman passes leaving scents of vanilla and patchouli, but I step over a sewage drain and am fragrantly reminded of the leftover scents of millions of peoples discarded curry. My nostrils took their own journey all in one Indian block; delightful and disgusting – perfumed and pungent; all of India.
Indian music is so distinct; with the twang of the sitar and oral pot drum harmonized with the high pitch song of a bell jingling woman. I sat by the campfire, the turban band of men all singing and drumming under a full moon. The drumbeats echoed across the dunes, as the eldest of the group ( donning a perfectly manicured mustache might I add..) played two flutes at once. Teeth gleaming from the firelight as they sang, my heart felt like joining in, but I didn’t know the words or meanings. I felt swept away in celebration. When the music stopped, the desert night returned to the distant murmur of goat herds bedding down and hot wind brushing the acacia. The perfect natural orchestra to lull me to sleep in my tent.
India may as well be a photographers/artists dreamy playground. Everywhere I look my eyes feasted on magical scenes of bejeweled camels and wonderfully brightly saried women set against a dusty muted desert, the sand the same color as the weathered faces of the Hindu priests. But the sight that pleased me most was set in the old town of Jodphur, the blue city.
I stood in streets of periwinkle painted ancient buildings, surrounded by “holy cows”, dodging rickshaws and greasy motorbikes, just a passerby admiring the manic scene. A little brown bangeled had tugged and me, and in perfect English said “Monkey” and pointed upwards. I followed her finger to find a sooty faced hanuman langur lounging from the eaves. He was perfectly backlit, his silvery fur catching fire on the tips against an orange sunset. Then, more appeared, and more. My eyes darted around; I twirled in the street- and I was surrounded. There in the middle of city were 30 or so langurs leaping from house to house- their black and cream bodies contrasted against the amazing blue rooftops; long tails grazing the windowsills. Ahhh. This was a sight to behold; and exactly what we came to see.