An Indian fling...
Last year, I had one of the most amazing passionate affair's one could ever ask for! I wish it could never end, every time I sense anything that slightly resembles the affair, and I get a deep feeling of nostalgia and can't still understand of why it had to end? It had everything I could ask for: Love, understanding, and exuberance with a drop of seduction.
The minute we met, I felt as though we connected! Everyday, my love grew stronger. More importantly I grew stronger, and learnt vast things about myself with such sagacity!
I can assure you I'm not the only one who feels this sentiment towards India (much to your dismay and my parents' relief it wasn't a desi hunk!). This country has this vibe of being deliriously alive and has an understated history and culture that is to vie for!
But then again you will have the nay-Sayers odiously arguing about India's pitfalls and dark side. You know what I mean… corruption, dominated by men, so poor, over crowded and contradictive people. Though struggles add to your character right? I believe India is that remarkable underdog that is making it through because she's grown through her complexities.
Either you love it or hate it; it will be etched into your soul forever! Because there is nothing ordinary about this phenomenal country, from the people you will meet or the history you will rediscover, you will ascertain their passion for life.
I was born in Lilongwe, Malawi and at the age of five shifted to the golden land of opportunities: Australia. Having a mother and father that are thorough-bred Guajarati Indians, it is inevitable that I learn the Guajarati way of life. Though being in an environment of lavish comfort, happy-go-lucky Australians and where football, beer and meat pies are the culture rules for this nation; it's a hard fact that I will overlook my ancestors, rituals, traditions and family values that behold our community's pride...
I never really understood India to be quite honest…perhaps it was the age limitation? Or the ABCD (Australian Brought-up Confused Desi) factor? Well whatever it was, India was definitely my (un)comfort zone. Well that was until last year, when I took an impulse decision to travel India to educate myself about the country that has given me my cultural roots. Quite a valiant move to make at the age of eighteen! With no peers to comfort you, no parents that sweetly put up with your tantrums…possibly the most beneficial thing that has happened to me?! It was truly a learning curve into adulthood.
Firstly, anyone that has been to India will be smart enough to never take India at face value. The first thing that struck me was there was no accurate description for India…You have people living in bi-polar worlds even if they live within a few minutes of each other. I found it quite bizarre how lavish hotels could be situated right next to a slum dwelling or some people could afford to travel the whole world and yet some could barely survive with earning under a dollar a day. Though, what brings these people together is their fervor for life and love for others, it is hard not to be impelled by their sincerity and warmth.
Once you're outside, you can hear people yelling, cars horning, cows mooing non stop! It's like being in a zoo, except a harmonized one. Lively and fun as India may be yet equally filthy and polluted…I was touched by people's generosity who hardly knew my name though was equally disgusted by looks of eager boys! You can find everything and anything in India: Sacred religion to the most corrupted underworld, Louis Vitton to $2 sandals, educated and successful people to people who don't even know how to write their own name!, untouched scenery to the most industrialized cities in the world!
A world where religion rules your life, where karma is reinforced by class, caste, disease and death. A world mixed with jamboree, exuberance, sorrow and national conflicts. A super model (Saira Mohan) once described it as:
"A day here and you can write a book, a week here maybe a paragraph, a few months here and you'll struggle for a sentence"
I couldn't agree more and that is why I'm stuck to what exactly I should share with the people whom have never been or for the people who vow to never go back because of a bitter experience.
I'll provide you with an insight of one my worst and best encounters!
On the way to a small village called Chappiya in Uttar Pradesh, I'm enticed at the vast amounts of sugar cane farms and urge the driver to stop and satisfy my thirst for sugar cane juice. We ask an aged farmer where the nearest juice outlet is. He warmly offers to make it on his farm! I'm taken aback by this gesture, as this man looks way over his 80's and is bone thin! To carry big logs and wheel a massive juicer is no joke at this age! I offer to help; he almost looks insulted and declines! He goes to the trouble of making a mere glass of juice that took a minute to drink and 15 minutes to make!! I thank him and offer him 30 rupees, he shakes his head and tells me he did it out of his heart and he doesn't expect anything in return! Tears are welling up...how can a man who cannot even afford to clothe his grandchildren properly and who earned this money resist? I give his grandchildren money which they instantly spend on garam samosas, I leave feeling inspired and amazed by such a satisfied soul.
One thing that I cannot stand about India is the prejudice that a daughter -in- law suffers! I've observed tremendous amounts of stress that mother-in-laws put on their "bhous"… I couldn't believe my eyes when a husband being blatantly wrong started having a heated argument with his wife, without a second thought the mother-in-law interrupts causing a mountain out of a molehill! I've never understood how, a young woman who sacrifices her family, her home, her career to be married to someone she hardly knows, and to top if off she marries the WHOLE family of her husband's! I've heard many stories about the monster in law …but don't they realize that saas bi kabhi bhou thi?
Ever met youthful adults who are so inspired by India, they are willing to write books about it? …start up "social conscience" businesses and preach through their example by helping the needy? (http://www.manavsadhna.org/) I was completely motivated by a few American desi's, to give back something to the country that has given me my identity! Incidentally met them at a café' … and what turned out to be a small introduction rapidly changed to a passionate discussion about India and coming here with a social conscience! These people had also been born and brought up in a western country by traditional parents. Never once did I get the impression that they were obliged to come, so humbly they had embraced India whole heartedly, and better yet…had come to change the image of India by writing a travel book for ABCD's like myself and by creating an organization where young adults can come and experience India with the comfort of like minded peers!
(http://www.indicorps.org) That was definitely a moment where I was impressed and encouraged to help change India, be it by giving aid to the needy or by writing a small article! I do hope step by step I can help satisfy the worth of this nation.
Coming back home after a year, I feel more lived, more wise and more Gujurati! I feel as though I have one leg firmly planted in India, and one firmly planted in Australia! Instead of eternally confused with my identity, I come home embracing it…like always my father said the best of both worlds.
No need to say more…if I do…I'll probably end up writing a book on India!
I advise you to go and discover your hidden passion for incredible India…you will not be disappointed!