The world today, exists in levels. Hop on a plane and in a few hours you can be at any major airport in the world. Find a car and explore cities and villages and see the surrounding area. Get out on your own two feet to discover the interwoven lives of individual plants and animals and people and their stuff. As a result of my wanderings on each level I’ve yet to disprove the following thesis: every square footage of the world is unique. Therefore, generalizing places and people and things is not possible. Labeling is done by people who prefer to view the world in neat, alphabetically organized boxes. When you come right down to it, classification cannot be done in a way that accounts for every characteristic of a place, people, country, city, etc. Never has a place reinforced this sentiment as much as India has for me.
When we first arrived in Chandni Chowk, “Old Delhi”, where our first hotel was, I was operating on about five hours sleep out of the past thirty-six. I was focusing on staying upright and not getting hit by oncoming traffic. Nothing else except the thought, “Oh my [expletive] God” got through my sleepy ramblings. Every individual factor in that little side street was enough to overwhelm me; with everything altogether, I was way past overwhelmed. Somehow, although I don’t remember how, I managed to get across the street, down the alley, through the lobby to pick up a key, and up the stairs, to finally our room and a bed. As I lay there, I threw out everything I had previously thought about India. I smashed my boxes that I had carefully committed to memory. Later, while on the roof observing the city at night and from above, I built not boxes, but instead amassed a miscellaneous collection of nick-knacks. I gathered images and memories that did not fit together under one distinct category. I took India out of a box and made it real.