Sunday, November 13, 2011

Upwellings, pt. 2

rnh, 6-7-10
Memory: When I was eight, my family went to India for a month. My grandpa was an architect, and had been relocated to New Delhi for a construction project, where both he and my grandma would then live for over a year. I remember going to the Taj Mahal in Agra, witnessing one of the world’s wonders before I knew what that even meant. My timid feet explored its entirely white marble terrain, marveling at the beauty of its intricate designs, in awe of its grandeur and immaculate precision. A pinnacle of extravagance; an emblem of enduring love.
I wondered how humans could construct such a thing.
I did not understand the lifestyle of these people, nor did they understand me. I remember visiting the zoo one day and when my family would stop to rest in the shade, men and women would gather around us, stupefied by the appearance of these tall, fair-skinned foreigners—me in a yellow sun dress with painted toe nails, and my grandparents with visors and fanny packs. The passersby took pictures, gawking, as if we were yet another exhibit at the zoo.
I remember trailing close behind my mom and grandma as we walked through the slums of Old Delhi. I passed rusty bicycles carrying passengers and cargo, open grills roasting ears of corn, clotheslines like power lines, vendors displaying brightly colored saris draped along makeshift door frames under which entire families sprawled on torn blankets in reconfigured cardboard boxes to escape the blistering heat. Sometimes, I passed creeks where mothers gathered water while upstream, others defecated.
I remember peasant children crowding intersections, skeletal, naked, begging at the windows of stopped vehicles. Some groped my ankles; others held their faces in their hands.
 I wondered how humans could construct such a thing.