via werner boehm
Do you have a place that entrances you, calls you? I do. And for me, that place is India. I remember, quite clearly, how this fascination began. In the third grade (or, was it the second? the fourth?), I was assigned a project -- not a book report, which was the usual fare, but a three-dimensional model of anything that interested me, a project prospect I found far more exciting. Disinterested in erupting volcanoes and United States monuments, I must have flipped through encyclopedias, searching for something beautiful, though I knew not what I was looking for. Then I saw it, swelling in its architectural grandeur, and I knew instantly: the Taj Mahal, that was what I would build.
And by saying "I would build it," I must have meant "my engineer/artist dad would build it and I would watch, provide input, and throw some clay around." Because that's what transpired. My humble replicate was pretty impressive, as far as grade school projects go: constructed of clay rather than marble, with selective etchings, a ceramic-painted blue and silver reflective aluminum pool, and four minarets flanking the structure, all of this occupying two wooden planks. A few years later, my dad would help me build functioning Roman aqueducts. I don't know which is my favorite. I digress.
That is how, at a young age, I fell in love with India. Since then, my fascination has grown, not so much from a love of the country's structures (which I am sure are breathtaking), but from all other cultural aspects. Also, any culture that piles on color and texture with such abandon is magnificent in my eyes.
I've never been to India. Last fall, while crossing the Laos-Cambodia border overland (they make you walk the 4o meters between the two countries' outposts), I met Sabine, a German-Pakistani peacekeeper on sabbatical, who introduced me to her friend, a woman who started a women's rights organization just north of New Delhi. Sabine shared with me her insights on volunteering at the organization, and I was taken aback by stories of the women, their plight and their strength in the face of domestic violence and, from what I gathered from our talk, a cultural framework that may make legal recourse for such violations very difficult. I don't profess to know anything substantive about this, but I would like to learn. You can file this in the "someday" category, but I'm determined to make it there, to New Delhi and elsewhere. Now, if only time would permit.