She came to me in my dream last night. And she stood there barefoot upon the brown earth, hands out towards me, staring at me with celestial looking eyes. Deep and heavy eyes that seemed to hang low. Hang heavy. The way a baby on a mother’s hip hangs loose and sways in a sort of slow dance as the woman walks intentionally down an unpaved road. Those eyes had seen too much. Felt too much. Sun had made the woman’s skin dark and tough, but from her came rays of light that conveyed nothing but peace. She wore a kurta. green I think, but it was hard to see anything but that light.
And her hands, calloused, reached out to me and said, “What do you miss about India?”
And I awoke with an aching. A longing. My head turned away from the light coming in my window, and I pretended not to hear the movement of my hungry cat, meowing from the floor below. The woman’s face felt too real to worry about anything else. Nothing but a lump beneath layers of soft sheets, My lashes shut against my skin. I wanted to remember.
India, it seems, has soaked into my skin. The dust of the ground I walked upon seeping into my pores. And I wonder about that time I got sick—when I fell unconscious upon the floor and bent over a red plastic washing bucket, emptying myself—if I didn’t then fill myself with what I saw there and felt there and heard there. I find myself wondering if perhaps that emptying of bodily fluids was not just an emptying of bacteria and sickness, but an emptying of my own desires. And when something is emptied, it must then be filled. I was filled with an awareness and compassion that seemed to mix in with the dirt that flew into my eyes or the smell that rested upon my skin.
What do I miss about India? She asked me, and I feel that somehow I owe her an answer—this vision of a woman standing in the middle of a road, light reflecting upon the ocean nearby.
The sound of little children reciting their ABCs. The smiles of the young women as they laugh and stitch and make fun of one another. Their hands touch mine, and I’ve never felt so loved. One of them takes a ball of yarn from me. I am too slow, she tells me. But I don’t mind—and I let my eyes convey my genuine love for her as she tells me to roll faster, faster. And I miss the look that one bus conductor would give us when we all would pile on or off the bus. He said “Good morning” or “So long” with his eyes. He was a man of peace, of protection. I felt that the moment I saw him, and I waved to him in the market once without thinking as he drove by on a motor bike. The wrinkles around his eyes curved in amusement. A white girl waving a shy greeting to an old Indian bus conductor. I miss the fish woman that would scream out below our flat, selling fresh fish that sent a putrid smell into the air. The eyes of the stitching teacher would roll, and her lips would purse. We never needed any fish. And I miss sitting upon a hard floor, Indian style, eating food I had seen being cooked—topped with coconut I had ground out with my own hands.
But I think I mostly miss feeling as if I can do something to counter a lack of love. But then I look around me, and I ask myself, is India not also here? Here in this city filled with refugees and homeless and unloved people? Is it not also here–in the projects where a little girl I love was raped and left to close the wounds of her pain herself? Is India not also here, in the school where a child is told he is dumb–that he will never amount to anything but a drop out and a trouble maker?
Perhaps I’ve been filled with the air of a country across the world to breath life in the country I am in. This India, my India, is everywhere.