Indian Sounds

One thing is for certain in India: No other country has the distinct ability to evoke such a wide range of emotions in one fleeting moment.

Crippling fear coupled with nausea is washed away in an instant, leaving only a fierce feeling of merriment with a dash of laughter, as is in the case of this car ride from the sweltering deserts of Jaisalmer to the Blue city of Jodhpur. Speeding down a pot-holed “road” at 90 kilometers an hour, nerves racing as we pass large trucks and avoid free-roaming cows, the only present sound is that of our driver singing a Hindi song with a melodic quality I’ve never quite heard before. I am tense, yet I am calmed.

Often, as is the case with this trip to India, beauty shows itself through the sound of song.

Last week, outside the City Palace in Jaipur, a thankless bombardment of pushy shopkeepers was made suddenly pleasant by the deep baritone of a puppeteer singing alongside his harmonium, a strange hand pumped piano-type instrument. I’ve never heard a voice quite so distinct and I’m not sure I ever will. The world stopped for a time, and there was nothing more than that moment.

And it was last night that we sat on wood stumps, watching the pink and orange-hued sunset stain Jaisalmer’s honey-sanded Havelis, drinking beers at a cafe on the edge of town, listening to three little boys sing alongside the same strange piano instrument and a bongo drum. Their voices were scratchy and raw, untouched by the wear of age, and the sounds filling our ears splashed the cafe with a melodic innocence just the way the fading sunlight splashed the city around us.

In a place where poverty is as ubiquitous as the Indian head-bobble, where hunger has consumed the cows, dogs and camels that walk the same roads we will, where water is as precious as life itself, I have found undeniable beauty. And I revel in the desire to continue this search for more, every chance I get.


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