An ache for India

Sailing towards Kenya on the calm Arabian Sea, I knew I’d return to India one day. The country left its mark on me.

I’d learned to be patient. The absurdity of not accepting a rupee note with a tiny rip was frustrating seeing it was worth almost nothing; the crowds closing in on you from all sides on the trains was claustrophobic; my burning mouth after a South Indian curry left me speechless; but I grew to accept these differences; often, I ached for India.

At the same time, I know the country’s changed. The Hindi and Tamil music and movies that I found annoying are now a part of my world, and I see the difference in the background scenes; in the types of stories being told; in the revealing clothes the female stars exhibit and I’m afraid to return.

After twenty years, I returned to Bali. When I stayed at Kuta Beach during the beginning of the seventies, there was a dirt road down to the beach. The women were petite. There were no hotels, so the handful of tourists stayed as I did, in private houses where families rented us a room.

Returning with my daughter twenty years later, I was disappointed that rows of shops had replaced the picture below. The once quiet lanes were filled with rowdy ubiquitous Australians. Even the petite Balinese beauties were replaced by women double their size.

While I grew sad at the changes, my daughter loved the Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants after three weeks in Java. She loved the shops. She loved seeing all the “white” faces because we hadn’t seen many tourists along the route we’d taken from one end of Java to the other.

I did return to India five years after my last visit but not much time had passed for any significant changes. What about today though?

Will my experience by like Bali? Will I be nostalgic for the old India? Can I embrace the new? Maybe one day soon I’ll find out.

Update: Returned this year (2016)

Kuta Beach 1971

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