The marriage procession turned from Mulund’s Lal Bahadur Shastri Road toward the railway station, wending its way through the main bazaar. Leading the procession were the men of the brass band in their glittering outfits, followed by the boys with their shiny teenage mustaches. In the middle were the middle-aged men in their tight T-shirts, bestowing proud glances on their wives and on the bazaar shops.
As he fished the curds into his mouth, they gushed with the holy taste of rosewater. When the curds were done, he let himself drink the buffalo milk left in the cup, and, for the rest of the ride, Narayan could taste the grease on his lips.
Bollywood holds a major key to India’s cultural identity, reinforced by over a billion devoted masala fans within and outside the country, including in neighboring Pakistan. Bollywood not only captures the social fabric of India; through its archetypal stories of valor and romance, it becomes the visual incubation and celebration of hope.
Our journey took us past endless fields of flowering yellow along the northern banks of the Ganges. When we pulled into towns, we asked for directions, from children balancing loads three times their size on their heads, from crouching women tending baskets of cauliflower and eggplant by the roadside, from men in the stores that stared open-faced onto the street, framing a tailor at his sewing machine or a man pumping air into bicycle tires. We sought the guidance of random people on the route, turning to them as to a massive human compass. And they obliged. They pointed us along bumpy roads bracketed by tiny pastel altars made to worship the sun, until one man finally indicated a rocky path. "That way," he said.