Boarding a jet bound for Delhi places you already within the Indian culture. The foods are Indian and most passengers are speaking Hindi.
Shoes come off. As we neared Delhi, people stood in the aisles brushing their teeth with a cup of water. There were not enough restrooms available, and the anthropologist who led our trip explained that the division between public and private space so strictly observed in Western culture is not present in India.
On the way back, I found myself still immersed in Indian culture until we disembarked in Chicago.
A four-year-old wore a bright green t-shirt that said:
A couple of the films showing for the flight were from Bollywood. I watched Rabne banadi Jodi ("God makes the matches" or "Matches are made in heaven") with the woman next to me.
There was much falling in love and dancing a la American Idol, but the context was an arranged marriage. Would it turn out to be a love match too? Of course.
One thing about the movie was all to familiar: God was referred to as "him."
"I see God in you," cooed the now-happy wife.
"And I see him in you," answered the husband.
Many Hindus say that all their male and female deities are in fact just various forms of the one God. Why that God gets referred to in masculine terms is beyond me.
My seat-mate was a gynecologist and surgeon from Delhi. When my legs were cramping during the 14-hour flight, I was grateful to accept an aspirin from her to thin my blood.
But soon she was advising Yoga and then Tai Chi... how healthy they are, how good for the mind as well as body, how in just six months or more you can learn enough to do your 20 minutes a day on your own.
I politely fended off her suggestions by telling her about a friend who had to have neck surgery after spending too much time standing on her head in yoga class.
She also argued that a vegetarian diet is much more healthy, and I'm sure it is, but I went to India as a tourist, not a seeker of truth ready to adopt a new lifestyle.
Rather than become a vegetarian and take up yoga, I just want to get back to my normal life.