Where I stay in Bangalore, the red dust envelopes everything. The roads are perversely bad, the sewers are open, shaggy dogs and pigs nuzzle in piles of dirt, and the sun beats down relentlessly on snarling traffic.
In the mornings, when the sun hasn’t yet reached its belligerence, I sometimes walk to the nearby petti shop run by a paan chewing north Indian. I squint my eyes against the cloud of fine dust, watching Bangaloreans dressed Bedouin-style, hurry around.
Tired migrant laborers, stinking from a lack of bath for days, mill around the latest inevitably ubiquitous skeleton of the unauthorized, unplanned, eyesore of a building, its construction materials spilling onto the narrow streets.
Most days, in front of the shop, a crippled lady sits on the pavement, a piece of cloth in front of her. On the other side stand the men with a smoke in one hand, a helmet in another, and an ID card with a faded picture fixed to their hips, easily erasing her presence in this landscape. I too have learned the trick of blotting her out of my vision at will.
But at night, when I step out for a smoke inside the gated colony just a few meters from this scene, it feels like a different world. The grinding noise of traffic, construction, and chaos is replaced with the rustle of coconut trees. The air is filled with the shrieks of locusts and grasshoppers, and there is the occasional large bat in the sky.
I have managed to not let India get to me.
Last night, however, I was mildly frustrated and extremely horny. I was frustrated because the India I came back to hadn’t changed. It has worsened, in infrastructure and humanity. I generally am sexually frustrated anytime I am in India.
My frustration seems to stem from isolation. Let me clarify. I do not need the company. I am, in fact, best left to my own means. I seem to have thrived in isolation for the past 14 years when outside India. In India, however, the isolation is ironic. It is the mass of people who make this severance intense. A paranoia that everyone I meet is drugged into a stupor with a dulled and dimwitted outlook towards life. I had the same vague (but quite unsettling) dread before I left India, but I guess I am insensitive enough now to let that rather unsympathetic answer take shape and assume importance within me. It is a mix of misanthropy, disgust, pity, and sorrow.
There is comedy in all this tragedy, and if one is pleasant and forgiving, probably life lessons somewhere within all this unfair madness, but I find myself increasingly prone to viewing the teeming population with lesser and lesser love.
Sexually, India has never offered anything more than cybersex. Even today, when I look at where I am, India’s holes seem buttplugged and blocked.
When I walk along the streets or am buying something in a supermarket, all I see is tired men and women, who seem to have ugly infrequent sex with assigned partners. No amount of online posturing has dislodged the moral sediments off this society, atleast from where I seem to be viewing it. Elsewhere, when I used to stay alone I did not mind shagging off when in the mood to relieve myself. In India, it seems to somehow seem degrading, a capitulation to the inability to even locate sexuality. The only way to get laid for anyone still seems to be from fooling the other person into marriage. Watching husbands and wives walking next to each other reminds me of kids walking next to that toy, which was good for about half a day, but is saddled with exclusively for the rest of their lives.
When 24, and still with some hormones left, these bodily needs messes up one’s happiness. At 37, it is compartmentalized bitterness at how things could have been had I lived in another era or with other sensibilities.
Despite all this, India hasn’t gotten to me because while I used to treat India with respect, this time I treat India the way India has treated me, without sentimentality, sexually frigid, and hypocritic.
The last stint I used to respect humans and their struggles, this time I add a good mix of disdain to self-inflicted restrictions. Last time I empathized with fat people. This time I make fat people jokes. I still get fooled by asexuals with firm asses, and I don’t know how to recognize fat frumps who have excellent tongue and finger skills and know how to milk the last drop. This time I am embracing my Indian middle aged maleness, and apart from blue balls, I seem well suited for it.