Posts Tagged ‘India’

Husk of India

Sweet and savory, ancient and colorful, varied and genuine. Dusty and nasty, tiring and exhausting, even disturbing. You can see India this way, or that way, or hundreds, thousands, and lakhs of others. No need to glorify, nor to vilify. India is neither this, nor that. India just is. And what we see, and moreover what we tell about it, is merely our perception. It’s how we filter the reality.

I have spent here six weeks, ridiculous amount of time. Besides, India has been my first encounter with a culture that is very foreign to Europe. That suggests I’m rather ignorant to draw conclusions yet. Well, this country hasn’t charmed me as I thought it would. But I’m not willing to label my feelings. Let the time distill them a bit.

Also, the truth is that I haven’t explored India that much. I haven’t spoken to the right people, I haven’t experienced the routine of everyday life, I haven’t done lots of things. It was not my purpose. India was my gateway to the different. It transitioned me from being a European in Europe to being a European in Asia. And one can’t blame a fork for not being able to convey soup into their mouth.

One way or another, these six weeks haven’t let me stay where I was. I’m not a person I used to be back then. What is more, I have even more questions to answer. I hoped that India would answer some of those, but actually it only raised more questions, and questioned things I already thought to be answered. “Does a person create a journey, or does a journey create a person?” I’m not sure whether Louis Vuitton knew the answer, but I’m sure he knew that if something is there to mash up your world, journey it is.

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Colorful people

Have you ever felt like a candy mountain? That’s exactly what I felt like, when colorful torrents were coming down from me as I was taking a shower. Who told that fairy tales are only there in the books? For three days, I became a character of a very funky fairy tale.
If you think that I’m on drugs, that is not exactly true. The truth is that Holi is a mega colorful Indian holiday, but Holi in Vrindavan (town where Krishna spent his young years) is just an alice-in-wonderland-sorta-thing.

While in the States, I’m quite sure, one would be taken to court immediately for randomly throwing colorful powder on people walking by, Indians seemed to be quite happy to have a pink face, red hair, yellow cheeks, and Easter egg style clothes. A have never seen so many joyful people in my life. Even disciples of an ashram we were staying in, normally being smily but reflective, were excited like kids, as they got all wet and pink. Genuine, deep happiness.

In the evenings, as the sun was setting, locals were gathering on the stairs of an antient looking abandoned temple. With fire, flowers, candles, with dances and chantings, they were performing the ritual of worshipping the river. Monkeys climbing the walls and foreigners rolling around with their cameras were the reminders that all happening there was real, here and now. After it became dark and the ritual was about to finish, I joined the circle of worshipers, and was blessed with some silver bucket that a man in a long white dress with a long white beard put on my head. Not that it made me feel more holy, but for some short moment I became one of them – no matter what the color of my skin or my faith was.

The ashram I was staying in was a community of Krishna devotees, with disciples from various countries, mostly German speaking Europe. Everybody had their Indian name, wore a white robe, and was involved in surrendering to Krishna. In contrast to their brothers and sisters in Europe, those were fitting to the environment and didn’t seem affected. Constant presence of a smile on their face and softness of the voice seemed to be rather spiritual. In general, when you compare put on a cross Jesus and dancing among women Krishna, dark mystery of churches and Indian temples with their happy colors, funeral-like singing of “Jesus mercy our sins” and cheerful or at least reflective chanting of the religions of India, an answer to the question of why poor Indians are happier than wealthy westerners becomes evident. One doesn’t need to be religious to feel the impact that religions make on our lives, most of it is already in our genes and collective history.

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On a ride

Going on a journey. It’s very much like riding a roller coaster. In the beginning, you feel scared. You fasten all the security belts, hold firmly with your both hands, and hold a breath as if in an attempt to become smaller. As the ride goes on, you cool down, relax, loosen your seatbelt, and enjoy the thrill of your experience with arms wide open.
The ride I’m having does have its thrill. Not the one usually mentioned in numerous articles about India. Having arrived with expectations quite low, I knew about what’s going on in the streets, what is the reality of the country. On my ride, I focus on the things that are important for me: culture, habits, weird little things that make up our lives. And it’s thrilling.

I’m getting stuff to think over, that is also a part of the ride. Just like in “The Pilgrimage” by Coelho, which I have just finished reading (that was a book for an occasion, so to speak), it teaches me its practices, gives me its challenges, shapes my worldview as well as self-perception, questions me. Explains how to “fight a good fight”, literally. What is left is to discover the secret of my sword.

Life stories, those are precious as well. My host in Chandigarh is *that* sorta guy. After having spent 5 years studying physics in the UK, he’s going to ride a bike towards Nepal. There he will be teaching locals to build earthships – sustainable houses made of tyres and other waste materials. They are also independent in terms of water and energy, and even food. Watch the “Garbage Warrior”, if you got hooked up by the idea.

To end on a less philosophical note, a bonus fact. Most of the elderly population of India are ginger. Just because they dye their grey hair with henna, the same color tattoos are being made with. That makes them stand out, having in mind all the Indians have black like night hair.

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