artist in india
After a year of pounding the concrete jungle I thought it necessary to relinquish the ties that bind and escape to a place I had never been and always dreamed of. So hours after walking in New York Fashion Week Mens-FW17 I hopped on a plane and jetted off to India. With an army duffle in tow and pockets full of inspiration I said au revoir to New York and Bonjour New Delhi!
The sense of community and overall togetherness is as thick as the bonsai trees that line the sidewalk-less streets and as loud as the jazz like sounds of the roadways.
"Do you like India?", a man asked
"I love it!"
"Why?", he responded with surprise
"Because everyone is brown!" , I said with a smile
I promised myself this moment and now that it is actually here, I am both eased at the thoughts proven true and more inspired by the things that my imagination had not constructed into possibility. Sitting on a patch of grass surrounded by even more patches of sleeping bodies, idle prayer and teen lovers whose who inside the dome make bass & treble of the air that breeze. If it were not for the glaring eyes that follow my steps through and around the ancient mosque I would feel complete isolated. Still existing within my own candor of sorts, Danielle strokes the keys the piano on her iPad, bring the sounds of nature to the background of a trying melody.
I listen to the birds and their solo above the chords and watch as one zooms to interrupt the stillness of a man who happened to find solace beside a mid day snack for the winged creature, foreign to my knowledge. I sketch the figures in the grass and the rows of stray dogs that linger in parallel position. Without an owner in sight its seems as if the four legged natives wonder and live as they please. In perfect harmony to the gestures and stances of the upright man who dominate the field. A few women sprinkled in the bunch, mostly younger-the school girl type. Playing eye tag with the boys on rubble and stained rock. Carving their names in the walls of the religious architeture with the hopes the ink will last as long as the structure that now houses its immortality.
The simplicity of caution needed and the vanquished allies to deadlines are minutes turned to days that I fear is a rubric to which is unfamiliar. Contrasting to my everyday regime of constant doings and goings, the streamlined emails keeping record of every thought and ironed out plan to detail accountability and professional banter. I can feel the treat of idle digits awaiting a mission to dial-checking my phone like you search the fridge seconds after opening it the second time. Hoping something would deliver itself a responsibility I kill the train on its tracks. I let my phone die and allow the nature of the day to bring exactly what I want. A desire that in india has married exactly what I need.
With zero expectations I entered a world unknown and soon felt at home. The different shades of brown that electrified the overpopulated city of New Delhi gave me a sense of comfort in knowing that even though I couldn't speak the language or identify the social trends as fast as I could in my home town. For as far my eyes and breathe could stretch tides of brown engrossed within me an empowering feeling that could only be rivaled by a trip to my fathers birthplace of Colon, Panama or back to the shores of La Cote d'Ivoire .
Never once did I feel that jarring feeling of displacement or the perpetuated sense of fear powered by xenophobic ignorance; nothing but love. It was almost as if all of the cultural difference between us made us more dynamic humans rather than alien to one another.
The only imports of Indian culture that I had known prior to my travels were that of the stereotypical depictions of Indian Culture; Bollywood, chicken masala, bomb ass curry, Tandori, Lavish weddings and religious adornments on the face and through fashion. My body and its senses were flooded with realities and situations that could only be understood standing in the midst of it all.
As the city itself thrives on thousands and thousands of ritualistic lifestyle and Indian traditions, you can feel the underground culture of Indian Youth taking form and becoming a solid force. Highly influenced by "The American Mainstream" I saw kids taking selfies, listening to top 40 from the late 90's and early 2000's, wearing adidas and skinny jeans.
I couldn't help but shake the sounds so faint in mind that boom the brain. With every push to scent and step to a new, Revolver hummed along,
I see the Time in their mornings,
their coffee tells me how the stone was build
you can even taste it in the water
if one was so lucky to drink from the same river
their past has made them sustainable to things only gods could create
who skin so brown in dust adorned make kings and queens of every day
who poke new wholes to make scandals real and zoom
on red brick dust and painted skin
past cow past market left stop here stop
That colors outside the city have no end
that merging is part of the journey
and white people stick out like the sore thumb you forget you had
Too little thought to political ties
more in merchant with survival to make something
and in the process being beautiful at everything
If you thought traffic in Los Angeles or Manhattan was intense..take a ride in a "Tuk Tuk"-Life changing!
As my best friend, Singer-songwriter and Oakland native Danielle Turner and I clutched each other for dear life, the streets were eroded with zooming bikes, blasting autos , shoe less men women and children, horns, jeers, halts and fast stops. It was like being on an Indian Jones ride, but way more authentic than what an amusement park could legally provide.
Everywhere we went, I kept asking myself- " Where are all the women?"- Considering the mixture of religious traditions within Hindu & Muslim culture, the appearances of women in public was scarce.
Amidst of the thick air of mass industry and screeching sounds of 'to hell with road rules!'' the colors of India parade the clamor and vulgarity of its people with regal blare. We dont have colors in [New York]-we have lights. We have neon gods and flashing pupils that look towards the sky instead of the reality that grounds them. So imagine the human comfort of being reminded that nature and man can exist without the heavy grey and laden black ties.
I walked through the Indian Parliament and along the stream of flowers that lined the grass. Signs urging "Dont Pluck!" made the desire to reach and grab a few particles of such beauty intolerable. Light lavenders and pungent rouge. Mellow dramatic blues that compliment the stark greens in every shade nature could profess.
The journey to Jodhpur from Delhi was with cinematic in its findings and humble throughout. We caught the metro and the parallel to NYC Subways and the packed cars of the New Delhi underground were comforting. The eyes of almost every man and the seven women (In including the two I was with) on the sardine car were shifted in my direction and moved with every jolt at every stop. After a couple stops I started making faces at the eyes that locked on. It didn't stop when we arrived at the the train station either.
The New Delhi junction itself barley stood and appeared to be mostly rubble. Something from the aftermath of invasion or construction strike gone generational. The floors were covered in shades of red dust and an array of brown people.
Boxes, Bags, crates, carts, sacks, duffles made of straw, cotton, rope and twine, hope and complacency-all colorful in between the ashy white and heather grey columns and almost walls.
The rooftops became a gateway to time travel. A view that spans the stretch of what illustrates an ancient morning and all its glory. The rose pots washed down in perwinkle and faint mustard.
Mondrian sketches made in the tops of 7:43am. Leftover laundry tickled the trace of concrete, stone, marble and twine, connecting all the little houses to horizon; who too matched the pallet.
The stillness of the flat tops and domes above was only a mirage in its cultural making. With ease to the passing wind, small cats and stray dogs idled their scant breakfast in tandem to the shadows that bore early risers and head starters.
The pure blue is enough reach out and taste with supple aim to quench all the hues that vast the mind and excite the creative senses. A frenzy of drums give pulse to the sun, dancing on the hairs that still smell of curry and mutton.
Against the advice of a close friend and native to New Delhi, I tried was is commonly called "Street Meat"
Encased in a steamy peice naan I my mouth opened and wet itself to what could only be described as what my tongue did taste. Succulent morsels of Lamb cooked over a period of 16 hours with a combination of spiced added from start to finish.
It was absolutely magical. I didnt think of the foreign dietary concerns at the moment. My initial and constant thought process when traveling and eating is usual phrased, " I did not come all this way to eat no american a**bull*** ",
A truth that stands even in New York City.
I would be lying if I said all the spices I digested didn't have somewhat of a adventurous effect on my stomach. But like I told my mother after hours of discomfort:
"Its so worth it! "
*A MUST! : Awarded the title " Spice Girls of India", by BBC this little spice shop in the heart of Jodhpur offers not only staple spices of India, they provide tastings, explanations and cultural context to what makes India the spice capitol of the world.
La Cusine d'Inde
Contrary to what my frame may showcase, one of my favorite things to do in life is eat. I love trying new foods, or old tastes in new places. India did not disappoint in that regard. THE SPICES! More than my tongue had ever known! THE SMELLS! Beyond intoxicating in every facet of the senses. Both colorful and abundant, delicious and decadent, we at like kings.
There is so much more to the stability and historic inception of India's palaces, Mosques, Markets and town squares. A quick glance from the clouds on a magic carpet ride does no justice to the intricate detail, forethought and architectural genius that leads a processional through the streets of New Delhi.