India, for me, was been a series of juxtapositions. It filled me up layer by layer with the most amazing sights and emotions only to burn each layer down a few hours later with sadness and sympathy. I have seen humanity in an ugly state but more often in THE most beautiful state.
I have witnessed people urinating, walking around with no pants on like it’s the furthest worry in their mind, seen people laying on the dirty (I’m taking sewage dirty) streets with no blanket in between them, spitting, polluting their garbage every few steps, having no concept of personal space with each other and so much more. I have seen young infants working hard for their families or carrying around their younger sibling that may only be a couple of months old. Anyone old enough to walk has some sort of responsibility. My mind raced back to me a few weeks earlier rolling my eyes when my mom asked me to carry in the groceries. What an asshole I am, I thought. I saw unsanitary and vomit inducing food conditions. There was health violations every few steps…. dead chickens being sold out of a back of a truck in the heat, disgusting bathrooms I will not even have you visualize, small/mini zoos in public spaces (lizards, bugs, mice) and young boys wearing clothes that had not been washed in what looked like weeks.
But with all of these shallow scenes meeting our eyes, the generosity, warm hearts and hidden gems of this country made me move past it all. Most of the population is well below the poverty line (in Jaipur for example the slums make up 10% of the land but 60% of the population live there) and even with the little that they do have, they are thankful for life. They have a skip in their step. They are loyal to their family and to their friends and if it means sharing their earnings from begging all day, they would share. I witnessed it and it broke my heart thinking of how we interact back home sometimes. We had so many families welcome us into their personal spaces with such sweetness and sincerity. They were proud of their food, their hand crafted art or the animals they owned. They called me “Maris” within a day of knowing me….making me feel like we went way back with each other. I saw how devoted they were to their faith…praying everyday and having small shrines to their gods in little corner nooks of the most unexpected places.
I saw huddles of curious children that just could not believe that I had blonde hair (or that I was wearing a short skirt-meow), that my friends eyes were so green and that my other friend had porcelain skin. They giggled and laughed and admired us foreigners as most of these children don’t have a TV or have never left their little village. Their innocence warmed my heart. More importantly, I learned that at the end of the day people are just people. Though the gaps between our upbringings and social norms are huge, our frustrations and what makes us smile are the same. We both are extremely persistent when we want something, both use horns like it’s nobody’s business, both eat with our hands at times (me at 3am more commonly) and we both laugh when something is really funny. It was incredible sharing a moment like this with our driver who didn’t speak english well; connecting with him without speaking a word.
With that being said, my favourite part of the trip was the people we met along the way. The sites of course were like a Pinterest board in real life and the photos will forever be stared at in awe but the new personalities we met surpassed any historic site we visited. Each person educated us on the Indian culture without even intending to…just by being who they were. The hospitality they displayed, their little gestures they offered and the stories they shared with 3 silly girls from Canada made me feel lucky for even having the chance to talk to them. It is said that India is a country made of 1,000 personalities and although this refers to the differences between each of the states, I also feel it is because of all the glorious people that fill these spaces. Of course, as lucky as I was for bonding with the people of India, the crew I travelled with made every inch of this experience all the better. Thank you to my two smart, independent, generous and inspiring good friends for being who you are
It personally made me appreciate this gorgeous world we live in and made me want to overdose on more travelling, the same way I overdose on Pizza. Every trip, especially big ones like this, gets me out of my little bubble that I sometimes fall into and shakes up my perspective. This world is filled with so much to absorb and every trip reminds me of how much there is to learn, grow and develop as a person as well.
I went into this trip thinking that India would be a once in a lifetime trip but after going there, I know I will be back. The impact on me was just too strong to not discover more of it! Thank you for positively effecting me India and welcoming me with open arms to your beautiful, maddening and magical country.