As you know a few times I like to talk about my travels and today it is about beautiful India.
This country was on my dreams for a few years and I was recently able to go and spend a full month between Assam, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, my trip was part business, more about this very soon! and part leisure.
Everyone warned me of the SMELL, the pungent and sometimes unpleasant odors I for sure would be hit with, arriving in India, but to my surprise I did not smell anything unpleasant, ever, for the entire month, only jasmine, incense, spices, simple food cooked on open air.
The fragrant flowers for offerings in the temples.
The fresh vegetables and spices in the markets.
But the SOUND of the traffic was the most unexpected and intrusive experience and that is why I did not love India at first sight (but I fell in love right after…) for the constant and very loud sounds of horns and the way they drive, impossible to explain. Their motto is “When you drive you need good brakes and good luck" well since I am writing this notes obviously both were in my destiny and I need to add “You need a loud horn”.
Trucks have huge signs on their back saying “Honk” or “Blow Horn” (like they need any encouragement?) in fact honking is a way of letting others know they are coming and when I say they are coming it means they are already a few inches away.
Travelling by car, with a driver, leaving some of my mental health, not to mention nails, on the car seats, I discovered that the national sport in India is not cricket…but honking; wherever you go, by foot, by car, by tuck-tuck, there is someone startling you with a screeching sound.
Even in the narrow pedestrian street of Old Varanasi you first jump vertically in terror at the loud horn of a big motorcycle at your back, then you jump on the side in the nearest door, store, entryway, or you try to make yourself 50 pounds lighter against a wall, to save your toes, and your life. “Sidewalk” you would suggest? Oh no, there are NO sidewalks in Old Varanasi, not one!
Do I need to mention Calcutta? Delhi? I leave it to your wildest imagination; I have been around the world AND I am Italian, so I should be used to some chaotic traffic but I have never seen such a show.
It was at times annoying, and after a few hours of street cacophony I needed some hearing rest and then is when I fell in love with India.
Sounds became ancient music, like the throat singing in Assam, or became classical music, like the birds singing in gorgeous rural areas, while they fly above geometric patterns of rice fields, over rows of mango trees, silk cotton trees, or above extremely curated tea plantations.
Each village had a different atmosphere and a different sound, in some you could hear the Jazz of rhythmic hand-looms for weaving silk or cotton.
In Varanasi the computerized (sort of…) hammering for making patterns for superb textiles (I should write about the magnificent textures and colors, but maybe another time…)
And wherever I went, most pleasant of all the laughter of the children following us in the villages or screaming joyously “Tata” “Tata” “Tata” which means “Good-Bye” when the boat was passing near a village.
Then again the screeching of golden monkeys on the Brahmaputra river, the gentle movement of the water during the Ganges cruise...
...the soft paddling of small boats crossing the river.
The clanging of bells, the chanting of Buddhist monks, the calling of a Muezzin, all sounds made me love India’s spirituality, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist religions and others seem to coexist in peace.
Every religious site was different
I visited all kind: ancient terracotta Hindu temples, Muslim mosques, the under construction Krishna’s new gigantic one in Mayapur...
Micro-temples on the streets, small altars in homes...
Everywhere some divinity was celebrated with offers of food, candles, flowers.
At the end of my journey I loved every aspect of India, even the honking became familiar, and I will go back as soon as I can to hear again all the sounds and to know more of this enchanting, complicated, mysterious country.
All photographs © by Albarosa Simonetti. Do not use without permission.
©2016 Brillante Interiors writes about new trends, timeless decor, iconic pieces, design ideas, or at times just musing about "a certain Italian way of doing things".
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