I spent two weeks there in November and I’m ready to go back. I read a blog recently where the blogger said, “I was in India and so exhausted from the visual stimulation that I thought I’d never return. I’ve been home now about a month and I’m ready to get on a plane and head back.”
I feel the same way.
So, what is it? The temples. The palaces. The colors. The camels. The elephants. The religious practices. The food. The music. The jewelry. The textiles. The Taj Mahal. The beautiful children. I don’t know.
I do know I am fascinated by life on the road in India. People live and work and sleep and try to make their way on the streets. Gathering by the water pump. Getting hair cut or a shave. Monkeys and goats and sheep are everywhere. The first couple of days I shot photos every few minutes of the cows. After a while, I almost didn’t see them.
Cows are commonplace.
The mayhem on the road is a rude awakening for even the most seasoned traveler. Shouts and honks and howls. Jarring. To blow your horn is considered respectful.
The poverty is so sickening I could hardly stand it at times. The begging children broke my heart. Wretched. But the people, smiled and waved, happy to see us and thrilled when we waved back. It appeared to me that they have mastered the art of living in the moment.
I never got tired of seeing the beautiful women, clad in silky and vivid saris with huge and I mean huge loads on their heads. Posture perfect, they glide in and around the filth and trash of towns or along the country roads. Almost not really part of it all.
One of our guides said she is very sad to see Western dress taking over in the cities because “You learn to be graceful in a sari. Young girls walk like elephants in jeans.”
The simple act of getting from here to there is nothing like managing a highway in the U.S. or Europe. We got stopped on a major highway because of herds of camels and on the last day of the trip enjoyed seeing a tribe of nomadic gypsies traveling with their children and sheep to new pastures.
I was also astounded by the number of people who can fit on a motor cycle. Whole families. Zipping about.
Our tour included a train ride because the tour providers wanted us to experience quintessential India. Bhawanis, our guide said, “Indian rail stations have their own life. Homeless people live there. You need to realize that 16 million people take trains in India every day.” I watched the families and the steady progression of folks suitcases, yes, suitcases on their heads. And yes, people do ride on the roof of the trains in India.
Pretty much every time I go on a trip to a culture very different than my own, I think, “Is the trip that will change my life?” I’m not sure India is that trip but it sure comes darn close. I’m not the same person having seen what I have seen and learned about a world so different than mine.
And yes, I’m ready to go back.