Explosive, unexpected, confusing.
Different from everything and at once so similar to many things in cruel details. This country easily blows even hard-boiled globetrotters off their feet. And as I wouldn’t want to fall into the flowery language of travel guides: it is certainly not merely because of its cultural and religious diversity, its historical richness or its colourful street picture full of women in shimmering sarees.
It is also – and at first contact for many among us – mostly because for an Occidental mind and senses, the Indian cocktail is no easy thing to bear. At least if you watch it with open eyes and think about the things you see.
Yes it is loud and so chaotic that finding your way through the particular Indian order easily lets an inexperienced Western traveler look somewhat handicapped. Yes it is dirty, with waste lying around everywhere – the dustbin doesn’t seem to enjoy a high popularity around here – and the mix of diverse smells in the air easily makes you dizzy. Yes, there are numerous touts around who try to misguide you or to make money out of you – as we already experienced on our arrival (see post) – and potentially you feel you can’t trust anyone who seems to be nice to you on the street. And yes, you see a lot of poverty, desolation, misery… sick old people languishing on a sidewalk, children with their clothes stiff of dust and mud, playing with oxidated batteries instead of at least a made in China. And no one seems to care.
Seeing this unveiled truth so abruptly right into its face just lets you feel terribly helpless and makes you want to scream out in despair and anger. How can there be any fairness in all this?
But then behind this disturbing first impression, more and more facets of this country and its people come to the surface, kind and helpful, cultivated and particularly entrepreneurial ones and many of our experiences here reminded me of the introductory phrase of a 2012 documentary by BBC India: ‘Welcome to India. One out of six people in the world lives here. Where you see chaos, we see structures. Where you see waste, we see opportunities. And when you look at us you will be surprised how we make so much out of so few.’
Once you overcome the first cultural shock and start to be enchanted by this crazy mixture that is India – there is definitely something bloody facinating about this place.