I read an article on India a few days ago, written by someone who had traveled there. The article was mostly correct and almost completely depressing. But, more importantly, it led me to more thinking… why do I tend to discourage my really close friends who want to visit India even as a part of me longs to share the land of my birth and childhood with them?
The thing with India is that like most countries, it has its good and bad. But the special thing about India (and as it was well alluded to in the article I read) is that everything is in extreme. Everything is cranked up to 11. There is hardly anything subtle in India. Noise, poverty, smells, touch, every friggin’ sense, everything is an assault. There is no such thing as a gentle caress.
- Sounds? A constant cacophony that badgers your thoughts into pulp. Silence might well be the most scarce commodity in India.
- Poverty? Nothing hidden here, everything hung out there for all to see till it desensitizes you.
- Smells? Oh yeah, spices and shit, all together now; think San Francisco’s soma-aroma (piss and marijuana) but all-pervasive and everywhere.
- Touch? One of the world’s largest country is turned into one of the world’s smallest spaces beause of the sheer number of people.
- Colors? Yes, there are every member of the rainbow and at their brightest, hue-iest, tint-iest.
There is no respite in India unless one consciously seeks one. And I say this having traveled to equally populated places such as Shanghai and Mexico City, both very nice and tame experiences compared to the big cities in India.
So, how do the Indians deal with it? I don’t really know but I can surmise. Perhaps they turn a blind eye, perhaps they balance every negative with some positive they know and come to peace at the resulting zero, perhaps they remember an even worse past so the current bad seems good in comparison, perhaps they look at the positives, and there are many, and feel better that something good exists in the midst of all the bad, perhaps they just look inward… I really don’t know but I do wonder.
India doesn’t let you down. It lifts you up and smacks you on the rocks below till every bit of air is knocked out of you and you are left gasping. It doesn’t leave you ambivalent. You don’t come back from India and say, “Meh.” You either say, “What a horror show!” or you say, “When next?” And, some, perhaps many, end up saying both.