Saturday, June 7, 2014

Being Here.

I find myself avoiding calendars and figuring out the date. I know that now that it's June, every number that I see will be closer to 29... June 29th, the day I leave. It's somehow, impossibly three weeks from tomorrow. How am I so attached to a place I'd never been to less than a month ago? It's more than this just being the first place I've ever visited outside of the states. It's more than just the fact that my experience is heightened because I am immersed in the culture here instead of being a "tourist". It's Calcutta itself...raw and bright and alive. Dusty and efficient and loud.

"Listen with your whole body," says Kofi Annan.

I'm listening. I hear Bengali and Hindi. I hear the thwacking of a machete against bamboo, the sizzling and popping of street vada in hot oil, the coughing and wheezing of the woman with her hand outstretched for money, the clink of shot glasses at an upscale club, the shrieks from the toddler a few floors down that echo in the scorching, humid stairwell. I hear the spinning of fans in every indoor space I enter, hear tile floors and shop stoops being brushed off with brooms made of long bristles and tied at the top with leather.

I hear the words of sex workers ringing in my ears long after I've left Sonagachi for the day.

I hear the voice in my head, constantly wondering, calculating, converting, and translating.

Wondering if what I'm wearing is appropriate, if my research here will be meaningful, what that man is thinking as he stares at me without abandon. Calculating how much I'm spending on groceries at the store (1400 rupees) or how much the bill will be at Banana Leaf, if I have the right denominations- for at any point in time I could be carrying with me 5, 10, 20, 100, 500 or 1000 rupee notes. Converting how much I'm spending in American dollars...1400 rupees for groceries that will last me two weeks converts to roughly $24. The best coffee in the world at Banana Leaf is 29 rupees, which converts to roughly fifty cents. We haggle with cab drivers, begging to pay 50 rupees less, and then we remember that we're talking a difference of less than 1 American dollar. The constant translation of words, facial expressions, gestures, and looks.

"Don't just be here," says Aman. "You have to BE here. Experience as much of everything as you can. Really BE here."


Anonymous said...

Beautiful! Thanks for posting your senses and experiences!
How wonderful to have such strong feelings about a place!
Take care of that hand,

JustJude said...

Good advice. Some people "visit" other lands and observe and look at the scenery, hear the sounds and eat the foods made for them as tourists. That is not your experience. You are truly immersing yourself, your being into your environment. When you do that, it is transforming. It enriches your life forever. You will never be the same because of this experience.

Anonymous said...

I like the posts where you write from your heart the most :)
<3 K