Thoughts on India

Feb 24 2009

So many colors. That’s what every traveler says at some point on their way through India. Festivals, saris, semi-trucks: everything is vibrant, over-the-top, baroque. The visual complexity of India is just the surface.

I returned to Chicago on February 10 after two eight hour flights and five hour layover at Heathrow in London (least they had beer). Man jet lag is a bitch. I managed to stay awake through most of the traveling in the hope that once I got home and passed out, I would wake up the next morning at my usual time and feel all adjusted.

Wrong.

I woke up at five the next morning ready for a dinner. Wide awake, body not caring that it was still dark out and there was no curry to be found. Two weeks later and my internal clock is finally adjusted.

I’ve been telling my stories and trying to explain India to everyone who’s interested.

India is a wonderful, fascinating place. And it’s absolutely insane. Not in a deranged way, like I said, It’s a wonderful place.

Some knee-jerk examinations:

Chowri Bazzar
Chowri Bazzar

1. There are so many people in India. And they all hang out on the street. At least all the men do. I don’t know where the women hang out, just not all on the street. A country of over one billion in the space one-third the size of the entire United States.

2. There are two India’s. And they exist on top of one another. The prosperous, westernizing/modernizing, middle-upper class India that I recognize having grown up in the middle class neighborhoods of the United States, and poor India. In America we push the poor, unsightly, unappealing to the fringes of society. The streets are clean and empty. In India the poor, unsightly, unappealing is in your face. The problems of the poor are tied to India’s future. And the current government has recognized that and has put an effort into improving infrastructure, health care and education for the poor.

3. Most rules are optional in India. If the rule is unnecessary or in your way, especially if you are in some kind of motorized vehicle with a horn, forget the rule and honk.

I like it.

Why is it that Americans wait for the red lights to change when there is no traffic going the other way? Because of the camera at the stop light. Or because there just might be a cop lingering in that dark parking lot. Our safety-obsessed, sue-happy culture has reduced deaths on the road and accidents in the workplace. Waiting for a few minutes at a stop light never hurt anyone, but our society invests so much into our system of rules those rules are just not questioned. Do we need to law-ify every single nugget of common sense in order to get people to not do dumb stuff?

Rumble
Rumble

4. All Indians know one another. Not really. But it seems that way when you don’t understand Hindi. Indians make fast friends. Especially in the country, but even in the city, the social aspect of Indian life is much more open and important than anywhere I’ve been. And if someone knows a little English, you will hear it. Some will strike up a conversation and eventually try to sell you something, but just as many just want to ask you where you’re from.

It’s an amazing place and I encourage everyone to go there. Make sure you learn to like Indian food first, and don’t just eat curry when you’re there. It’s not that good for you.

One response so far

  1. Wow! Being an Indian it is such a pleasure to hear such an account of my country! A lot of what you said is true. It is a land of vibrant colors and we are very friendly people! A part of it comes from the traditions and family oriented nature that we inherit.

    -manya