I fell in love with the jewel of the Empire

Goan, India, Thursday, July 15, 2004 by : Jillian Gies
Jillian Gies grew up in Leader Saskatchewan and lives and works in Medicine Hat Alberta.
As I disembarked at the Goan Airport, the emotion churning through my body caught me and tears threatened to reveal themselves against my approval while the reality that I was finally here again penetrated my mind. Smells, unpleasant yet so familiar they become pleasant found my nostrils. Diesel, ammonia, incense, smog, curry spice and refuse mating with one another to create something that is genetically India. Red sand redder than the sand of Prince Edward Island contrasted against vast miles of palm tree and jungle green, yet speckled with unheard of amounts of garbage of every deplorable kind. In the airport there is absolute unorganized confusion to the western mind in the security, the customs. If this was my first time I might have been frightened at the militant flavour of the government, but to me it's just part of the adventure of India, the mystery and the visual stimulation. Actually, every single one of your senses would be stimulated to the point of overload, especially if you are originally from a small town in Saskatchewan!
My first trip to India was in the fall of 2000, and I was there for two months. I fell in love, it's the best way to describe it. It seems ridiculous that I would love a country that is so dirty, crowded, hot and teeming with disease, but I love it despite and because of those things. Walking down dirt roads in the midst of a cornucopia of aluminum, mud, stone, woven baskets and a smattering of livestock to the strangest symphony of life-threatening traffic you have ever seen, you could happen upon anything and it would be a normalcy to Indians when to you it's the most unforgettable thing happened in your whole life! For me that is the allure, the intoxicantcy, the joy and the sorrow mingled of my beautiful India. I deeply understand why the former Queen of England once called India the Jewel of her Crown. Beneath the poverty and all of India that is foul and disgusting there is a brooding of the potential to be the most majestic destination in all the earth. India is teeming with disease but it is also teeming with resources. Woven fabric of brilliant colors, marble, spices, and where it is unspoiled, gorgeous jungles as a backyard. It is naturally a very rich place, but the culture has destroyed it to the point of being almost irretrievable. I see it. I feel it like some kind of horrible tragic story of mourning that no one can really describe because few believe it could be. When you fall in love though, you are loyal no matter what anyone else says or thinks.
The punctuation throughout this story however is pain, no matter how much I praise India. It is part of life there to see crippling disease, leprosy, children abandoned and begging for money and being sold to temples as prostitutes for the duration of their ignorant (ignorant because of circumstances, not personal defect) life. They have never seen clean, large, widely spaced houses on perfectly paved roads and never will. All they see is dirt and excretement and death and work and sorrow, and loss, and lack. They are born into poverty, they are forced to remain there by caste, and they die in it just like their fathers did and their children will. Those objectionable tears are yet again emerging as I write this, because that's the reality. It's no story. I could not describe this country to you sufficiently even if I were a highly trained writer, and no one really can, because as I've said it is unbelievable that what you see every day could be horribly normal. But it is. And so I continue mourning and adoring India, and I will go back someday, because there are people there whose lives can be changed if someone would just care enough to interrupt their lives to do it.
To see these images full size click on the image.

Jillian Gies


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