This is not the greatest picture I have ever taken, but I love it nonetheless. It represents India’s daily life. Not the beautiful exotic women wrapped in saris, not the sadhus on a quest to a better (after)life, not the poverty of guilt-inducing documentaries. It’s just India. Taken from the car, it’s mistake of a photo, I don’t even know what I was trying to focus on. But I got the essence of what India is for me.
There is a little store, a hut, made of metal, that displays all kinds of goodies, from cookies to tobacco products. The guy is sitting behind the jar with the red lid. There are little packages of individual doses of pann (I think), that look like long strips of condoms! There is a light bulb hanging there, a useful addition after dark. When he goes home at night, he closes the store window which serves as an awning during the day.
To the left, there is the mattress seller, with the ubiquitous cotton plaid fabric covers. The mattresses are handmade. This is not the kind we sleep on, though I often wonder if those wouldn’t be as much, if not more comfortable than ours. We were warned though that they don’t last long. And I suspect they are bug infested. I don’t like to share my bed with bugs, unless they’re my furry kittens, my lovebugs.
There is trash on the streets, though not much. I can only see a few pieces of paper, and a plastic cup. It’s been swept that day. Swachh Bharat. There is a broken sidewalk, the only kind we find here.
There is a “do not park here” sign that has lost all notions of verticality. There is an explanation, or an amendment underneath it, in Kannada. “Everything is in English” they said before we moved here. No. There are pasted ads on walls, ads for “PG Gents”, accommodations for single men, and ads for Hadoop’s Big Day. I have no idea what that is.
In the back, there is a large banner advertising a brand new apartment building located close to us. You see those signs everywhere, as well as dozens of new constructions.
There are three guys hanging out. One of course is checking his phone, they’re always checking their phone. There’s another man sitting on a motorcycle. Motorcycles make very good sitting devices when one is idle. There is a helmet attached to the motorcycle, but it’s a construction helmet. It can, and is used often as a device to protect one’s head while riding a two-wheeler. And my favorite is the man in the black shirt, with his hand in the air, with the quintessential Indian hand gesturing. You cannot “speak Indian” without accompanying your words with flicks of the wrists. It puts Italians to shame. Even ex-President Kalam does it. When my school kids try and imitate my American accent, I imitate their hand gestures.
They think it’s hilarious. Me too.