India: Arriving in Delhi
I got into Delhi early on a Sunday, still battling a nasty cold that hit me a day before leaving New York. The Delhi air quality didn’t help the cold. On the flight here I looked out the window, maybe an hour or so before landing. Never have I ever seen such a deep red in my life. It was crimson, nay, burgundy, in the sky, along the horizon. A full spectrum of color beginning with the reds and ending in a hypnotizing royal purple. As we approached Delhi, the sun rose. A haziness blanketed the view in lieu of clouds and turned the sky all kinds of soft, Easter-eggy pastels. And through the haze a few peaks broke through, and I felt a knot develop in my throat. It made its way up the back of my throat, tingled up my sinus cavity and alas, up to my eyes, where it manifested in a a solitary tear and a soft convulsion, overcome with emotion. I’m finally here. The mountains call me. India has been calling me since I was ten years old – since my dad returned from that business trip with a small mirrored bag where I dutifully housed my German colored pencils, and with the rupees that served as the first members of my foreign currency collection. India, I’ve finally made it.
Driving from the airport to my hotel, I saw people loitering everywhere: standing in groups, eating street food, just hanging outside subway stations. In Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts says that what makes it possible for one billion Indians to live together – to coexist so densely – is that, simply, they love each other. And so I wondered how Americans would fare in a similar population density. Do we love each other enough? And why has loitering become such a dirty word? It obviously can lead to some bad things – garbage, traffic, crime. But can’t it be a good thing, too – a way for us to interact with one another, to learn about and from each other, to cross-pollinate and share knowledge? Would we be better served as a country if we just hung out more? If we spent more time getting to know and feel empathy for our fellow humans? To learn to love one another the way Indians do?