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Searching for the Magic of India
Mark McEvans
...let the little irritants go and it all starts to become very very funny.

I’d been to India once before and truly hated it: The noise, the oppressive heat, the poverty, the swarming mass of mustachioed humanity that engulfed me. Instead of facing up to the challenge, I hid pathetically in the lieu of a luxury pad, country club and a chauffeur driven car, horrified by the inhumanity that surrounded me. I had been a coward. But as time passed, and the more and more I heard ‘beauty’ and ‘magical’ associated with a place I considered a god-forsaken hellhole, I became increasingly resolved to return to discover this ‘magic’ and confront what had once been an incapacitating fear.

‘Jesus H Christ!!’ I thought to myself, while being mobbed by polio-ridden beggars, street urchins and neurotic rickshaw drivers. I was back in India and it was just how I remembered it. After being cheated by my liar and charlatan of a rickshaw driver I threw the money at him and walked , no, stormed towards my guesthouse. In my jet lagged ‘oh what have I done?!’ induced frustration, I shoved open the hotel owner’s door with such might that I almost fractured the scull of his sleeping body. After screaming at me in Tamil he gave me a room key and while lying in bed that night, listening to the opium induced mantra coming from outside, I thought to myself, ‘Five months isn’t that long, is it?’

The thing about India is that it really does get better. Once you’ve seen out your first few days in Delhi, Mumbai or Madras you quickly begin to get used to it; the hassle; the chaos; the beggars proffering their various stumps and sores. You change. You have to. It certainly won’t change for you. So instead of turning the air blue with curses every time you receive hot milk on your cornflakes or abusing a Kashmiri for following you through a market, you begin to step back, relax and laugh. Instead of pulling your hair out over the madness, you learn to let the little irritants go and it all starts to become very very funny.

It was at this point that I fell in love with India. Don’t get me wrong it can be frustrating: The constant scams, the hassles, the endless bureaucracy, the repetitive questions, ‘Your good name?’ ‘Your native place?’, punctuating every train journey. But with an open mind and a sense of humour it’s an incredible and hilarious place. There is just a madness that rivals nowhere else; sleeping cows causing kilometer tailbacks; 40 minute traffic jams in bus stations; beach cleaners who bury the rubbish under the sand and at the mercy of the next rainstorm, the post offices without spare pens . . . the list goes on and on.

Don’t get me wrong there is far more to India than chaos. It is as culturally rich and diverse and fractured as anywhere in the world. The beauty of Manali, the Keralan backwaters and the surreal Flintstone-like terrain of Hampi rival anything that I’ve ever seen. But, for me, India’s real impact lies elsewhere: In its ability to change a person.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t return from India a hippy nor a new -age Sadu for that matter. To this very day I’ve never worn tie dye nor blessed a chillum in my life. But I feel as though I left the chaos more chilled out, more open minded and with a sharper sense of humour. There cannot be many places that can have this impact. Maybe that’s the ‘magic’ of India.

A Star is Born in South-West China
...The beast was set loose. I, like I was told, ran for my life

© Mark McEvans September 2002

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