Remember when I wrote this post?
THAT girl, had clearly never been to India.
My impressions of India, before we arrived, were mostly based off friends’ tales of soul seeking journeys through the spiritual landscapes of the country. They hiked and meditated and yoga-ed their way to quiet minds and inner-peace. Each one came back tanned and blissful and regaled us with stories of their life changing experiences in India.
But you know what NONE of them did in India? Live there. They were wanderers, nomads, rovers, hippies… When the spirit moved them, they moved on. There was nowhere they had to be, and nothing they had to do. They stayed primarily in the hill stations and out of the cities and the majority of their interactions were with other international travelers.
My only other points of reference were from the senior members of my company who had visited Bangalore and returned with PowerPoints of their luxury trips (replete with pictures of Indian colleagues; nervous smiles plastered on their faces) along with the portrayal of India offered by American media.
After nearly 6 months in India I’ve learned that there are infinite ways to experience “the real India”. The friends who came before me had experienced “backpacker India”, my colleagues who preceeded me had experienced “C-Suite India” , the images I saw on TV and in Movies was Hollywood/Bollywood India, and what Tal and I experienced was something all it’s own.
So what was my India like? It was busy and chaotic and disorganized. It was dirty and cluttered and overwhelming. It was being started at constantly, always feeling out of place, never feeling quite at home. It was a series of surprise stomach ailments, inane Bureaucratic processes, endless ridiculous struggles to complete the simplest errands. It was the constant ache of guilt as a member of “the privileged class”, it was simultaneous self-hatred for not taking any action towards change. It was hard.
But it was also thrilling and energetic and full of hope. It was genuine and inspiring and filled with hidden treasures. It was unparalleled natural landscapes, total immersion in a culture completely unlike my own, a new perspective on almost everything. It was building incredibly special friendships, a test of my romantic relationship passed with flying colors, an unmatchable professional experience that became so much more than just an impressive line on a resume. It was a reminder of how lucky I am to be me, it was daily opportunities to be a more generous me, a more loving me, a stronger me, a better me. It was beautiful.
On my last day in India I found myself in a hospital room sharing celebratory sweets with a glowing new mom, a proud new dad already wrapped around his gorgeous daughter’s little finger, the doting big sister of the new mom, and two ecstatic sets of first-time-grandparents. As I said my final goodbyes to my dear friends, my own tears caught me by surprise; I was sad to be leaving.
My India became a part of me.