memories of india often spark into my delirious mind at odd hours of the night. it is as if the tiredness disarms me. as if my conscious mind knows all too well that these memories heavy with diyas and marigold and bicycle bells and amchur, are too exquisite for bleak daylight.
at 3:26am, when the streets are still and the trees are quiet, when the intoxicated college students have stumbled back home and overworked pizza boys have made their last runs, you’ll find a small brown girl (who likes to believe she is bronze), curled up on white sheets, hugging white pillows, wearing a white salwar kurta, draped in long brown curls. and you’ll find her remembering india. if you find her, if you are especially nice, she’ll buzz you up into her 3 floor walk up browstone mission hill apartment, tiptoe out of her bed and welcome you home. she’ll hug you good (every nice human being deserves good hugs) and quietly lead you back to her white bed that smells of coconut and fresh cut gardenias. if you find yourself here, hug one of her three pillows, or better yet lay her head in your lap and play with her curls, and she will tell you about tiger paws padding on wet forest floors, corn blistering on hot coals in the monsoon, she’ll tell you about hands stained from rangoli, and jalebis dripping with sweet syrup hot from a pot of boiling oil. she’ll tell you how her ma put hot turmeric paste on her stomach when she pretended to have tummy aches to skip school, and how her tummy would stain yellow for days and smell of hing. she’ll tell you that she can dance. boy, can she dance. she’ll tell you about hours spent losing herself in bollywood music, with her aunts and uncles and sisters and brothers. she’ll tell you about dancing till her feet hurt and her eyes glowed and her face hurt from laughing. if you’re lucky, she’ll show you a few thumkas, but though she may not seem it, she can be shy at times – you’ll have to convince her. maybe a kiss on the very tip of her nose will do it. she’ll tell you funny stories about her uncle’s shaadi, how her eccentric grandfather slept in the hotel lobby because the windows in his suite would not open. she’ll tell you about besan ka laddoos, and papad and bhujia and hot samosas and then blame all her aunts and grandmothers for making her fat with them. but she will suppress a smile as she does, for how she loves them and the way to this girl’s heart is most definitely through her stomach. if you ask about her childhood (you must know, she loves questions) she’ll tell you about sitting on an old, beautiful carpet and running to the door when her father rang his three-ringed bell. she’ll remember how he’d spin her around till she was dizzy and her most important family member - duchess - would bark at the duo and chase them around while her mother laughed and her little brother cooed. she might tell you a little about pain – show you the tattoo on her smooth left collarbone just above her heart, a memento of her long-gone duchess, and let it slip that her father doesn’t live with her mother anymore. forgive her, her heart has been heavy. having you there to listen means more than she will allow you to believe. but she won’t dwell on the bitter for too long, for there are too many intoxicating foods to tell you about (and we all know every nice human loves food as much as she does), she’ll close her eyes and take a deep breath and describe a meal of steaming coconut curry and chana masala on rice, served on a banana leaf and how delectable it tastes after a refreshing swim in the indian sun. she’ll tell you how she wishes you could taste it and how she wants you to see the places that make her happy. your eyes will shine with longing. you’ll want to take her hand and go home with her. she’ll tell you about the heat, how your palms would get sweaty if you hold her hand, but she’d hold it anyway. ask her about the city lights and she’ll sigh and paint a picture for you of marine drive in all its glowing glory. your eyes will begin to droop eventually, so will hers, and if sleep comes you will both welcome it. you will curl up next to her, holding her hand, and in your dreams you’ll both be in Mumbai, watching the first rays of the sun light up the city she so passionately calls home.