I step out of the airport and am greeted by a soothing Indian breeze. As I wait for a taxi, the street lights suddenly deluminate, marking the return of daylight. I watch as the softly glowing sky grows brighter. The raspy voice of a crow sounds out like a dark omen. Its unexpected sound adds to the eerie fog of dawn. The taxi arrives and I climb in. We drive past a wild vista of dusky pink soil and muted greenery, now clashing with the forms of the city. It looks simultaneously like a theme park and a war zone with its candy-colored buildings standing next to decaying walls and half-finished constructions. Palms and coconut trees burst out among the rubble.
I start to notice the people. Women flow by in bright colors and bold patterns, carrying bags and baskets and babies. Men and boys play cricket on a dusty field or against a backdrop of faded graffiti. An old woman somehow manages to take a dignified nap in the middle of the sidewalk. A man walks by balancing a sack of rice on his head like he’s been doing it all his life––and he has. A statue stands outside a shop, but it’s really a woman wearing a brick-colored shawl.
I see my first sacred cow, but it certainly doesn’t look the part. She’s nothing more than a spotted milk cow and just as comical. She looks bored, trying to entertain herself by drawing pictures in a pile of dirt and then rolling in it. An over-privileged cow suffering from ennui.
Eventually I wheel my suitcase into the room I’ll be living in for the next couple months. Without waking my roommate, I inspect the space. I have air-conditioning, hot water, and a western style toilet. What more could I ask for?
Finally, I can “get horizontal.” I curl up in bed, warm and clean after a shower, welcoming sleep. “What am I doing here? This strange place…” High on my wall reads a calendar: “The Lord will be your everlasting light.” That’s all I really need to know.