I've waited a long time to write about India, wanting so deeply to do the country justice. There are so many negative stereotypes that I want, in my small way, to break, while showing my great affection for the country without being completely trite. That's really a tall order.
Before I left, I'd watched Gandhi, Slumdog Millionaire, all of the Bollywood I could find. I'd read all the books from the library, cracked the Bhagavad Gita, and even attempted yoga (rather unsuccessfully). But I now know that India smacks you in the face no matter how you've prepared. The uninitiated will be surprised, overwhelmed, and delighted.
Within the my first week, we took a tour of some markets in Mumbai. The tour guide asked me if this was my first time to India.
“Yes.” I answered without looking at him, unable to tear my eyes away from the myriad of unusual sights.
“I can tell by looking at you.” he laughed, pointing at my face.
I laughed and pointedly shut my mouth.
India is a place where I cannot pretend that I am not a tourist. I cannot blend in and try to look calm and collected. I might as well have kept my open-mouthed stare, because if that didn't give me away, surely my white skin, blonde hair, and fancy camera did.
India is everything you expect, and everything you don't expect.
It's thick crowds, chaos, and dusty streets. It's cows on the sidewalk, smiling faces, and brightly patterened sarees. It's tractors, flying kites, and camels. But then it's upscale shopping malls, fancy cars, and towering skyscrapers.
I should have expected these things. It shouldn't surprise that India is on the cutting edge of almost everything. But unfortunately the perception of India that travels 8000 miles to the US is almost entirely negative. These negative things are true, but the opposite is true too. What I saw there were proud people. Kind people. Hard working people. Innovative people whom seem to make the most of what they have.
It's much bigger, much greener, and much cleaner than I expected. I had safe, amazing experiences, ate delicious food, and was never afraid. I was struck by the buccolic countryside full of small villages, farming communities, and vast lands.
India is industry too. Every product I touched there was made in India. The handycraft, of course, but also toothpaste, soaps, clothes, everything. This is probably due to many factors, but one big thing about India is that it values people. If a job can be done by one person but two people do it, that's okay. If a machine exists to do a job, a human will do it in India. With such an enormous population, the country must value jobs and must value people. Outsourcing is not a thing there, because their own people need employment. Sound familiar? What greed and loopholes gets America is a growing unemployed population which has a negative domino effect for the entire country.
I am struggling to make a conclusion about the country. It is one of great division, of great dichotomy. I want to give you deep, accurate, philosophical conclusions about India, but I can't. Well, maybe a few, but I'll probably just write about what I did first.