Posted by: adventuressetravels | June 11, 2012

Incredible India

“Do you dance?  I want to see you dance!”

I hadn’t thought that I could feel more ashamed of my two left feet than I had at the Afro-Colombiano music festival, but Manshul, the professional Indian dancer, asking me to dance right after we watched videos of his performances was worse.  Protesting vehemently, I tried my best to wriggle my way out of his insistence that anyone could dance.

“Okay, sing for me then!”

“Oh, you don’t want to hear me sing,” I assured Manshul.  “I don’t know any songs…”  Dealing with people who have been raised in a Bollywood-culture I had no desire to torment these kind people with my pitch-less voice.  And it was true, even if I wanted to I couldn’t – I couldn’t remember a single song!

I felt like a talent-less hack.   What did they teach us in America anyway?

We had gotten back from the Taj Mahal at 3:00, and much of the afternoon (and the night before) had been spent trying to get me to sing or dance.  I read books!  I wrote!  I wasn’t a singing dancing type of girl!

Soon it was evening and the family was feeding me more delicious food.  Curiously enough my favorite thing was a spicy eggplant, or bhurtha in Hindi, dish.  By the time I was finished Love and his uncle were whisking to some other relatives’ house (from what I understood).  The new family was extremely nice, but spoke almost no English.  Soon their daughters, the sweet more demure older daughter, and the younger extraverted girl around 13, took me into their room to for girl talk.  The moment I complimented the younger girl on her henna tattoo, she exclaimed that she could paint the same on my hand!

Moments later she pulled out a henna pen and was drawing an intricate design on my right hand.  After having had a traditional henna pattern drawn on my hands which took ages to prepare and draw, I could hardly believe that there was such a simple modern alternative!

As with everything in India the new family was intent on feeding me.  I didn’t have room for a second dinner, I protested, but they wouldn’t have it.  Because it would be rude to refuse I mentally stretched my stomach and ate some of the delicious food while watching videos of some dance exhibitions members of the family had performed.

When we returned to Love’s house, Manshul came up to me wreathed in smiles and presented me with a huge Ganesha statue.  “For you to remember me,” he said with a wide smile.  I had told him Ganesha was my favorite god and he had remembered… (Elephant head, sweet tooth… what’s not to like?)

It was so sweet, but I wasn’t quite sure how the statue was going to fit in my backpack.

Then the father asked me to stand so that he could measure me.  The tailor wanted to make me a dress.  “What are your favorite colors, he asked?”  

I was overwhelmed, these wonderful people had been too kind to me – it was too much!

We sat up late into the night, laughing, talking, and the uncle playing music on a keyboard while we took turns singing (yes, I did try to sing).

I went to sleep in the warm glow of camaraderie; India was wonderful.

The next morning the tailor presented me with a birthday cake of a dress.

With a full skirt and puffy sleeves it was fantastic –   a dress that little girls would adore – bright colors, gold threads, and a whirlwind of mismatched colors and patterns.  Bright yellow sleeves, a ring of pink, purple flowers, a black and gold front, and gold ribbon around the sleeves and hem, it was a dress that belonged in some little girl’s fantasy.  In the real world it looked something like a square dance had vomited.

I beamed, and fell over myself thanking them.  I was practically in tears:  the tailor had sewn a dress as a present.  It was one of the nicest things anyone had ever done for me.

I came back up the stairs in the dress and Manshul exclaimed “you look like a baby doll!”

I spun around and the full skirt swirled out to the sides in a colorful circle.  Before Love took me to the bus station I changed into some better clothes for travel and accepted the mother’s parting gift of a lovely stone necklace and some bangles from the sister.

Overwhelmed by their kindness, I could barely speak as I hugged them all goodbye.

Incredible India:  that is the country’s ad campaign slogan, and they have gotten it right.  India can be chaotic, it can be dirty, and challenging to say the least, but it is also a place of unbelievable kindness, generosity, and beauty.  It is litterally the best of both worlds.  That is why many people don’t love India or hate it; they love India and they hate it.  That is why India is truly a marvelous country.


  1. wonderful Blog

  2. Lucky they didn’t give you a pair of red shoes.

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