After a16 hr journey from New York through Brussels, I arrived in Delhi. I glided past immigration with ease: my eye make-up smeared like a battered Vegas-showgirl's, my Jew-fro on the verge of becoming a ripe dread-lock and the smell of death blazing from my arm pits.
Another blemish marked my plump passport. Yet, this diplomatic ink-blotch is far from the nomadic pageantry of stamp’s past....
I left the Indian sub-continent on December of 2007 as a backpacker. I return in January of 2009 as a foreign correspondent in training. I carry my universe with me—two bag’s worth.
Shoving said bags into a Yellow & Black Taxi at the Delhi airport terminal, I proceeded to take a deep breath of India's magnetic midnight air. My tongue and lungs were, at once, coated by tar. A 3-legged dog hopped past me. To my right, two men warm their tired bones before a pile of burning garbage.
As my chortling cab criss-crossed the congested streets, I wondered: Why have I returned to this strange land filled with simultaneous expressions of love and filth - a place that has terrorized, teased and transfixed me? Why let the Shakespearian love affair take hold again? I found the answer this evening when browsing through old emails I sent during my first tour in Incredible !ndia...
I think I fell in love with India yesterday. And this admission after being bumped, bent, and spun around as the sole foreigner on a 17 hr sleeper train ride.... I, of course, slept cuddling my bag as if the big knap-sack was my coffin. My snores hummed in tandem with the non-stop train's chugachugachugs. With each train stop the loud yells of "MASALA CHAI, MASALA CHAI" from slap-happy vendors patrolling the aisles would jolt my eyes open.
When the train stopped at the final station a group of ladies in radiating yellows, reds and greens started to sing and laugh --all holding hands. The women wore their leathered skin with pride and smiled at me with toothless grins.
Later that evening, I listened to the piercing singing of a moustached man. He darted his all knowing hazel eyes my way, turbaned-out in a ripe colored fruit basket. Women performed in the foreground. Their heads wiggled ever so slightly as they punched-out a subtle symphony, using only bangles and metal hangings from their bodies. When they weren’t erupting in creative music-play, their mouths spit fire. They softly wrapped their lips around sharp knife blades - contorting their bodies like birds in flight. To see such fragile forms, juggling fire and blades.... well, it opens my heart, Mom. It mirrors what I am starting to learn in this country: it is possible to be vulnerable and delicate in the face of such destructive forces. Flirt with fire-engage in a beautiful surrender.
Looking back at this declaration of love, I realize I have returned to India to capture this vulnerability. This time I will suck in the surrender and upon exhale reveal how it manifests itself in the political, social and economic fabric that is modern India...
My first TV assignment kicks-off Monday. With the global resonance of Slumdog Millionaire (or "poverty porn" as many call it here), I will explore one of the movie's major themes: corruption in India's network of child beggars. I will look specifically at the controversy over government efforts to ban child begging in a country where social services are limited and good cop/bad cop are often indistinguishable... I look forward to posting my latest works on this site in addition to regular multimedia--heavy updates.