Friday, March 20, 2009

CC: A Farewell to India

I’m going to miss India. But that’s not to say that I’m not glad to leave (or even that I could have dealt with another week right now). It seems to be the case that most people either love or hate traveling in India. Not being one to take sides, I’ve taken it upon myself to both love and hate if at the same time. There are few places where I’ve felt so happy and at peace, though nowhere that’s been able to frustrate or upset me to this extent.

To some people you’re a walking ATM from which the object is to extract as much money as possible, to others you’re some sort of freak to be stared at (and you have not been stared at until you’ve been stared at by an Indian for an entire bus trip), and to others you’re someone to be treated as a dear friend. For every fifty people who won’t accept your refusal to get in their autorichshaw, give them money, buy their drugs, or take them as a guide; there’s always at least one person with so much love and concern for you and everyone they meet that it almost makes up for everyone else. Some people won’t lift a finger without the promise of an unreasonable number of rupees, but some will take an hour out of their own time to make your day as pleasant as possible and refuse any sort of payment for the service.

It’s really just a massive paradox; one that any Indian will admit that they don’t understand themselves. Sometimes the religion seems like a commercial, meaningless, theme park like activity – while sometimes it hits on something so beautiful and profound that you can’t help but feel it.

It’s a culture where girls aren’t allowed to leave home from when they hit puberty until after they’re married (and usually bitter and overweight). Where people won’t treat others from lower castes as equally relevant human beings. Where hygene and environmental concerns are irrelevant. But it’s also a culture where everyone is on a spiritual quest. Where curiosity always trumps indifference. Where you can find people with so much love in them that you can feel it.

Even though it’s so completely foreign to your sensibilities you never feel alone. So many people are so happy to draw you into it that there’s no question you might have that will go unanswered. Or no bus ride where you’ll be left in peace. I’ve heard stories from people my age about their families and their arranged marriages, about having to sneak around with girls so their parents never see them together, or on the other end of the spectrum about militantly defending their conservative way of life against western influence.

No matter how you spin it there’s a lot to learn from India – both through imitation and through avoiding their example. And if nothing else you can’t help but admire their uncompromising pursuit of their way of life. But in the meantime I can’t help but pursue a little bit of peace and quiet in Nepal.

1 comment:

thefreedomfry said...

That's an apt description of India, I think.

I'm living vicariously through your posts-- keep them up :)

I hope you find the peace you're looking for in Nepal.