I’m touring in India, and it’s exhausting because it’s damn beautiful. Trying to take in this much beauty is draining, in some ways more so than the sun and heat, and the crowds, and the hawkers clamoring. Yes, I’m complaining because there’s too much wonderfulness about.
I’m also thinking about the difference between living in Kolkata, food shopping, walking in the streets, and commuting on the metro, and the experience of being chauffeured around (largely a safety measure as I am a woman traveling solo) between hotels and tourist sights. I didn’t think it was possible to create a bubble that made the harder aspects of life in this society disappear, but indeed sticking to tourism puts a shielding gloss over the experience of being in India. After six weeks of life at street level, a little luxurious distance can be pleasant, though I do feel the difference–I’m no longer in India–I’m floating above, in the tourist bubble, touching select ground for brief intervals, and only for the sake of beauty. There is a great deal of beauty here, but only taking in the beauty feels like trying to marry the person you’re excited about dating in the first three weeks of a great romance. Having tasted some of the struggle of life in the country, I can now see this harmonious, painless week for the privileged illusion it is. I am so glad to have had these two opportunities. The most beautiful sight in any setting has consistently been women in their sarees and salwars–that will be my final memory of the country.