The well chosen slogan of ‘Incredible India’ is a perfect way to sum up my first visit to India. It is both beautiful and shocking at the same time. All the senses are given a thorough workout as you travel through this emerging economic power. It is a place of contradictions. Ladies wearing fabulous sari’s walk along roads where there is rotting litter in large piles where stray dogs feed. There will be 4 people on a moped, passengers standing on the bumper of a minibus but they travel at a slow speed and manage to avoid the large number of cattle, pigs and dogs that wander freely on the highways. They are a friendly nation, with lots of smiles and lively conversation even though many live in shacks without sanitation or running water. They value education highly, but don’t follow any rules. Ladies can show their mid riff but not their legs or cleavage. You can piss but not kiss on the street. Shoes are sold from air conditioned shops whilst food is sold alongside polluted streets. Everywhere is crowded, not surprising with 1.25 billion people, yet I saw no one get angry with anyone else. They have magnificent world heritage sites, beautiful monuments that are a reminder of its historical wealth, they are custodians of some of the world’s most endangered species, but a tea picker earns £1 a day. They are a peaceful, gentle people who freely acknowledge that corruption is part of everyday life. Everything from arranged marriages, over 300 million gods of the Hindus, the caste system, to the beautifully designed fabrics, jewellery, art and crafts are all fascinating aspects of this colourful country.
We were looked after so well and made to feel very welcome as we travelled through the Northern part of India with its huge diversity of people and landscape. We have had some amazing experiences from seeing a tiger in Ranthambore to taking tea with a Buddhist monk in a monastery. We have had hair raising car journeys, got used to seeing cows on the motorways and seeing thousands of small kiosks selling anything you could imagine. My son said ‘ It feels like they are all a group of seventeen year olds having a great time and not worrying about the consequences’. He is right, you certainly have a great time while you are there, accepting the need to frequent the toilet a lot more often than usual, but I wonder what the future holds. Whilst they have to address the poverty, sanitation and pollution, I hope they don’t ever loose their spirit. We could learn a lot from their tolerance and respect for other living creatures.
Could I live there? No, I don’t think my constitution could cope with the spices, chaos and pollution. Would I go back? Definitely yes and I hope many times. It is, as the slogan tells us, ‘Incredible India’. Link