Eva Bradley: Fickle love woos, spurns

By Eva Bradley

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I've been having a love affair. It started long distance with the help of some old-fashioned romance and a bit of modern communication over the internet, and rapidly resulted in airfares and long-distance travel to connect on a more personal level.

But like so many love affairs ignited by imagination, and fuelled by idealism and unrealistic romantic expectations, the reality of India is taking its toll.

We're two weeks in and at times the passion hasn't just cooled - it has frozen right over. Which really is saying something when you're riding on the back of a camel in the pulsating heat of the Rajasthan desert.

I was warned that my relationship with India was likely to be a love/hate one, but in the usual triumph of hope over experience I didn't believe it.

Having now seen what appears to be at least half the country's population squatting in my path while attending quite publicly to the call of nature (and reluctantly being forced to join them on occasion), there are now no secrets between this place and me.

Just as any holiday will force those in a relationship together more closely than is comfortable, India and I have simply had enough of each other.

Dirty hotel rooms, wet heat, late trains and a population that engages in the unrelenting and shameless hustle of tourists like it's a national sport has worn me down.

At times the sight of so many lives packed so tightly together and so punishingly deprived of even the most basic human dignities feels set to totally break me.

I have figured out now why so many people in India believe in God ... they have to.

What you see from the dusty windows of slow-moving trains at first makes your eyes pop in utter disbelief; then it makes your heart crack.

The hoped-for happy, relaxing holiday disappears down the drain in a way you can only wish the sewage on the street would.

But every time I decide I can't possibly continue my relationship with India, she will throw me the most wonderful peace offering.

Today I was wined and dined on some of the finest cuisine I can ever recall eating; I was taken shopping for pretty cotton frocks and strappy summer sandals; India sat me beside a glorious pool built in the remains if an ancient fort on the edge of the Arabian Sea, and then she bloody well seduced me all over again with a hotel room that was once the bedroom of a maharaja and his many wives.

Of course, I forgave her.

The trouble is we've been involved for long enough for me to know that the warm love fug that lightly covers us today could just as easily turn into a polluted haze tomorrow, or even a monsoon downpour.

None of us is without our faults, though, and while India is high maintenance and prone to wildly unpredictable mood swings, she is beautiful in her diversity, patient and accepting of her faults and full of disarming surprises.

Despite our spats, the love affair will continue, but long distance (thank God).

- Northern Advocate

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