India

Permanent

When a needle drags upon our skin and bleeds ink, it’s a tattoo. When I showed up at the Mumbai airport, there was some sort of eye contact and mutual understanding I made with the promise of what was ahead. There still isn’t a name for this, some call it brave. Some call it incredible, others don’t know what to say. All I’ve come to know is that it’s a very sacred and uncomfortable exchange. Any needle would snap in half if it tried to tattoo this kind of thing. Surrendering to this kind of experience requires a new kind of parlor, with a new kind of permanent engraving but there isn’t much precaution around it. There was a range of reactions and responses when I told people I was coming to live in India, but never did I hear “Remember, this is going to be there for the rest of your life. Are you sure you want to do it?” Not that it would’ve changed my mind anyway, but what I’m doing here is permanent.

For the rest of my life whenever I see devanagari, I’ll be able to make sounds of what once appeared to be pretty scribbles. It’s going to be years from now where the scent of the air sends me back to where I am, now. The songs I know word for word will have a bind to the streets of Pune. Two years from now, the woman in front of me won’t know that my heartbeat will pick up the moment India falls out of her mouth. For the rest of my life, whenever someone says, “India” in a conversation, speech, song, or poem, it’s going to hit me a lot differently than it will to the person beside me. There’s a permanent reservation under the name now. India, party of 2. Party of the red sun over the systematic chaos below and party of the girl who found ground amongst it. It never occurred to me that way. When India finds her place in my conversation eight thousand miles away, it’s not going to be what I think about India. It’ll be how I feel. It’ll be the afternoons I spent with a pen in hand, lonely and trying to find words for it. I’ll feel the smile I had when I got inside my first rickshaw. I’ll feel the knot in my stomach tighten with uncertainty when the days went from bad to worse. It’ll be the thrill I drowned in when I understood the vendor’s mother tongue. India isn’t going to be the same, I’ve already run my fingers through her hair, we’ve laughed to the point of tears. It’s not just a romance—a fling, it’s the love we read about in novels. It’s the excitement you feel when a good friend walks into the room. There’s an aura about India and it will not surprise me when I see a map and my eyes look for her. India, is not the same anymore and it’s going to be this way for the rest of my life.

Tattoos fade, every couple of years you go in and have them touched up. India, being as saturated as it is could arguably require a touch up of dark orange and deep pinks in about one year but remember, this isn’t a tattoo. The needle would break, again and again. The ink would fade by Tuesday.

India is engraved.

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