words sonya c. patel | image sanjeev patel
The humidity—even in the winter—the layer of dirt that sticks to your skin the moment that you finish toweling off, the noise of vehicle horns, of animals, of countless people, and the mixture of spices, sweat, and pollution descend upon you all at once in India. It can feel like an assault on the senses to someone who doesn’t live there or didn’t grow up there. Raised in the United States, that’s what it was to me the first time.
But by the second, third, and fourth visits, I started to feel more at home. I like how people are unfazed when walking through busy intersections next to an owner-less cow. Unfazed by ten people crammed into a tiny rickshaw. Unfazed by eight-year-olds using massive knives to peel the skin of an apple. Unfazed by infants in the lap of a mother on the back of a “scootie.” First visit? Bring these items, then: go to the markets, find some kites, and fly them on Juhu Beach; pick up a rickshaw and do a tour of celebrity houses; take in the wooden ladders used in constructing tall buildings and imagine what it would be like to work like that; go sari shopping and say Yes when they ask if you want something to eat or chai, dripping with sugar.