On India – 2005


What to write about India? It is bizarre stepping into India from the air-conditioned comfort of the North Gate Hotel. The North Gate is not India, with it’s room service, laundry, and round-the-clock CNN satellite TV. Over the threshold lies a clash of realities, exemplified by western-style hotels strewn amongst street vendors, beggars and chai stalls. Internet boutiques sit under partially completed freeways. IT infrastructure support students make their way to KFC. Cart-drawn oxen contest 3-wheeled scooters, passed by Mercedes-Benzes.


What is a clash of realities, on reflection, reveals itself as the experience of place. And so the air-conditioned Northgate Hotel is India. Just as much as the limbless, blind beggars it towers next to; no more so than the young, white, pink-gowned Harry Krishna converts wandering it’s streets. Shiny new call-support centers, staffed by university graduates paid in American dollars, next to malls showing the latest Bollywood sensation. Such is a cross-section of India that cuts close to the moment: impatience with the present, hope for the future, reflections of the past – tradition, religion, belief – in a blender.


I’ve read – been told – that India is ‘in transition’, if such a thing is possible – to isolate one country from 193, and view it statically. One perspective from 6.1 billion. A-zoom-in-freeze-frame of an entity that is by definition, “[in] passage from one form, state, style, or place to another,” and yet through the simple state of existing, could be nothing less. It ‘is’ unfortunate the linguistic structure of English fails to encompass past, future and present in one tense. Or rather, perhaps this ‘is’ it’s greatest downfall – in so doing, relying on separate cognitive symbol-associations that make possible the process of disassociation; present from past, past from future, future from present. By this ‘is’, I hope to include not only, ‘was’ and ‘will be’, but ‘might be’, ‘could be’ ‘should be’, ‘won’t be’, ‘has never been, ‘will always be, etc…To further this, perhaps language’s greatest downfall ‘is’ (was, will be, wasn’t, won’t – substitute whatever you wish) to difference between ‘is’ and ‘isn’t’, thereby creating the skeleton framework on which a common reality is built. Is there a language that doesn’t differentiate? Where my, ‘is’, doesn’t inflect on your ‘isn’t’? Where the plural ‘I’ and ‘we’ are one and the same? Perhaps such a language would cease to be language, and, neither voiced nor written, cease to exist.


After all, these terms ‘are’ neither here nor there; they are self-defining opposites, co-dependent on one another in their attribute-value existence. Remove one, and the other ceases to, “be”. In a similar way humans recognize individuality, nations draw borders, and economic theorems create value. That is to say, none really exist, and are merely abstractions of consciousness. Perhaps language is the first layer in interpretation that constitutes myth. Thus language ‘is’ myth: “A traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the worldview of a people, as by explaining aspects of the natural world or delineating the psychology, customs, or ideals of society”. Wordy to be sure, but perhaps not far from the mark; language formed and encompassed as myth explaining reality, a rationalization that in turn substantiates reality.


And so this freeze-frame is an effective manner of simplifying, interpreting, decoding, structuring, comprehending –on a superficial level– the statistical, socio-pop-economic ramifications of the world it has created. A world of layered myth, tangled together in a web of blood and bone, roots and stone, neutrino and clone, then smelted in the subconscious fires of 6.1 billion into an entity. EarthTM v.4.63 beta.


And so, from one perspective amongst 6.1 billion, a freeze-frame of a moment. An analytical observation of the India that separates me from you, us from them, now from then. A myth, a myth, and song and a dance. It could be nothing more, and it is nothing less.