Friday, October 26, 2007

Prelude to the Taj...

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Space Defense

"Don't touch me like that!" I said sharply, shoving a probably 15-year-old boy's red-shirted shoulder.

He looked at me with such a shocked expression that I had to remind myself of where his hand had just been while he stood behind me in line.

"The last person, who tried that got his arm broken, just fyi, Sweatpea!" growled Pat.

It's true that once, I knocked a drunk man to the ground for copping a feel as he walked by me.

He whimpered, "You broke my arm!" He couldn't get up. His friend stood there, gaping. I walked away.

That time was 16 years ago on a Saturday night, on Sheridan Road, when I lived in Chicago. This time, Pat and I were heading into one of the seven most peaceful place on earth...aside from our eruption; all of us were on line to enter the Bahai Lotus Temple in Delhi. (There are six other such temples worldwide.)

The boy was with his friend and they got ahead of us and one mimicked me to the rest, "Don't touch me!" and all of them laughed heartily. Then the boy and one of his friends held hands as they ascended the steps.

Everyone reading this entry who's not Indian needs to suspend his or her frame of reference. Here, male, teenaged friends often hold hands and it is a purely platonic gesture.

Seeing that he had a friend with whom he had a capacity for tenderness moved me. The imitation a moment prior inflamed me and then the hand-holding disarmed me.

Shoe Shame

We had checked our shoes in a nylon-burlap bag and Pat dumped out the two pairs for us afterwards. On the bench, where people were putting their shoes back on, I saw a mountain of shoes next to ours -- large sizes down to tiny ones -- all of which had spilled out of a bag like ours. The smallest pair, multi-colored sandals, made me sad for a sec. I envied their full bag compared to Pat's and mine. which yielded just two, adult pairs.

Hidden Diplomacy

Walking back to meet the driver, a group of junior high school girls passed us, saying hello eagerly. Pat didn't notice at first. I just said hello cheerfully in return and had to acknowledge to myself that our sunglasses did nothing to hide our skin-tone.

"Why are they saying hello to us?" Pat asked.

"Because we're not Indian, which makes us celebrities."

On the way back to the hotel, we drove by gorgeous embassies. "All of them are on foreign soil," Pat reminded me, "Isn't that neat?"

We saw Mauitius', Palestine's, Qatar's, Pakistan's, Canada's, Sudan's, Italy's...the United States'. Seeing our flag, flying in India excited my patriotism.

"Can you find this address?" I asked the driver, pointing to #13 on the map in our Lonely Planet guide book, which didn't included the number of the street at which it stood -- the Israeli Embassy.

On the road, leaving the Delhi airport, we did see Hebrew printed in cautionary, red font on the back of a car, "Shmor merchako,"/"Keep [your] distance." Unwittingly, our driver heeded the command and we never caught up to the car to see who was inside, unfortunately.

A conference of mostly non-Indian McKinsey people was also meeting at our hotel and all of them wore exquisite, Indian silk outfits to dinner. How much more beautiful a world we'd live in if every one of us wore Indian fashions all the time.


Anonymous said...

Yuck. I hate unwelcome touch and human interactions. And I hate the adrenaline and self-justified fury surges that overtake me in its wake. I hope that the spirit of the Temple soothed your soul. And I hope really hope that you've had time to read in baths, swim and enjoy new delicacies. Glad to hear you won't be taking on any new assignments. We're going to try to videotape Mom's presentation tomorrow, if we can find a way to charge the video camera.
Love you,

Sarah Siegel said...

Lots of baths, the Taj by moonlight, a swim toward Ganesh, who decorates the far wall of the pool here, and not new delicacies so much as extra-savory versions of my faves.

Here's hoping that the video camera does its job!