let me tell you how it went
when he leant in with hot breath
left hand wrapped around the back of her neck
and he held her there
with foreheads touching
and fingers pushing into her flesh
let me tell you how he spoke
when he awoke in her a nightmare
lips whispered woven lies through veiling hair
ruffed out of place
it covered her face
and the shame with which he scarred her
let me tell you how she froze
when nose to nose in his control
to feed a hungry heart she sold him her only soul
she’s never known love
or a fist to kiss her bruising cheek
let me tell you…
because she can’t.
may it be stress-less
rest from restlessness
feel the solid ground beneath
listen to your own feet
each foot step
and with every breath
When I lived in India I wrote about all the things I missed about England in ‘Take me back to dear old Blighty‘. It was exactly one year ago today that I flew to India, having no idea what I was letting myself in for. Since my return I have realised how significantly my time in the East has impressed upon me; like henna on my heart that doesn’t look to be fading any time soon, the sweet nostalgic reflections of this culturally-confused woman are as warming as masala to my insides. Since then I have been accumulating notes of the many things I miss about India:
- Chai – oh that sweet sweet chai! It may taste nothing like a good old English brew, but for Indians alike, tea is a way of life. You’ll find Chai Wallahs scattered along every street, passing through train carriages shouting ‘garam chai!’ (hot tea) leaving that tempting aroma trailing behind them, and for 6 rupees (6 pence) a cup you can’t help but go back for more! Poor imitations charged at £3-4 in Western coffee shop chains just cannot compare.
- Auto-rickshaws “autos” – it may take a while to master the task of catching an auto; explaining in limited Hindi where you want to go and then trying to barter to avoid being ripped off is no easy game. But once you get the hang of it, being able to hop onto an auto from almost anywhere is super convenient and heaps of fun! Each journey from A to B is a unique experience of taking in the sights, sounds and smells of India – you will never be short of excitement!
- Chicken frankies – I couldn’t tell you exactly what’s in a chicken frankie but I can tell you that they are super delicious. It’s like an omelette-y pancake-y wrap thingy filled with spicy chicken and veg. It’s not often you find good non-veg food in India, but having discovered these I confess that I picked one up for lunch every time I made my way to the ballet school to teach my classes for the day.
- Monkeys – they’re naughty little creatures, and surprisingly quite dangerous, but it’s so much fun to watch them play around from the safety of a swiftly passing auto or a closed window. It was a constant occurrence to witness the girls burst into laughter mid-plié as a family of monkeys committed to repeated performances of their tricks outside the dance studio.
- Nasal sounds – India is full of nasal sounds – everything goes “HONK!”.
People bustling around market places muttering “हाँ haan” (yes), the many roaming cows groaning loudly in the heat, the bustling traffic manoeuvring around said cows with horns constantly blaring… When you first arrive in India the noise hits you from every angle almost abusively, but upon my return to the UK I found the new silence to be surprisingly unnerving.
- Head wobbles / Indian nods – it took me so long to master the Indian head wobble-come-nod (apparently you have to imagine you’re drawing a horizontal figure of 8 with your nose), but once it was part of my behavioural instinct it was tricky to remove it. Needless to say my first shopping trip hit me with reverse culture shock when the assistant asked if I wanted a bag and I responded with a head wobble…
- Men wearing shirts – no matter what the weather, no matter the occasion, no matter the class or caste of the individual, most Indian men will be found wearing a shirt. Not a t-shirt, not a polo top, sometimes a kurta or the occasional holey vest, but more often than not, a well fitting shirt. There’s something rather pleasant about the thought of English gentlemen making a similar effort when it comes to presentation.
- Bollywood – okay, so Bollywood can be preeetty cheesy, but try sitting still when you watch the dance scenes in a Bollywood movie, it just can’t be done! I couldn’t leave India without a small collection of films, but I still miss hearing the songs ring from old mobile phones and bellow from the street parades with dancing men following a wedding party.
- Motorcycles – whilst in India I had my very first experience of riding on the back of a motorcycle. Zooming through the colourful streets, weaving in between cows and traffic and people, the wind in my hair with the sun beating down (or the cool night air slipping through my skin), and passing warm glances between other women on the back of motorcycles, our dupatas(scarves) floating behind us as we feel an inexplicable sense of freedom.
- My little ballerinas – I still wonder how I ended up opening a ballet school, only by the grace of God could something so random yet brilliant unfold so easily. Every moment spent with the young people I had the privilege of teaching was so precious. Admittedly there were times that my patience was tested and my faith stretched, but I was so incredibly blessed to see my students grow in expression and explore their identity as daughters (& sons) of God. I miss every one of them.
- My friends – for young single women in India there is little opportunity to enjoy a social life, and a daily battle against loneliness is inevitable. Nevertheless I was blessed with dear friends wherever I ventured. The security guard on the gate to my apartment block bowed his head to me with a smile every morning. The lady who made my very first sari let me bless her unborn child and put my picture on her wall. The teachers at the language school patiently taught me the cultural “do’s and dont’s” as well as enduring my appalling Hindi. My business mind for the ballet school welcomed me into her family and treated me with delicious food. My Nepalese friends gave me the honour of teaching them English and shared music and laughter when I was low and homesick. There are so many others, individuals who touched my heart to then be captured within it. I will never forget them.
So, there you have it! A year later and here I am, reflecting, regretting, romanticising. One day I will return. Until then, I will pray for the nation I love, with henna on my heart.
In 2014 I met a beautiful woman called Nicoleta Mezei. For a whole year she snapped moments and recorded her thoughts of thankfulness, sharing a blessing every day for 365 days. I have been inspired to take the challenge for 2015.
The last year has been so full of experiences; I moved to India, I opened a ballet school, I got sick and moved back to the UK, I lived with my Grandma as she battled cancer (and won!), I landed an awesome job and moved to the town where my grandfather grew up… So many huge events, traumatic transitions, new relationships, all of which God has sustained me through and shown me the depth of his unfailing love. But hiding between the big events are thousands of tiny little blessings, things so wonderful yet so small that they fall through the cracks in my deteriorating memory.
My hope is that this project will help me to see my life magnified, to see the hidden wonders of God, to remember them, and to be thankful for them.
I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. (Psalm 77:11)
I’ll be posting my blessings here:
1/365 – Armchair
At last I have been blessed with some furniture in my new house! I’ve spent most of today sitting in this spot reflecting on the year passed and dreaming up plans for the year to come.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.