Relax, I haven’t been kidnapped. Just, you know, procrastinating on this super overdue post on the long gone India trip (it’s a miracle I can still remember this much!).
The parents and I took off from Singapore on the morning of 16th March. My eight day trip was filled with a lot of sightseeing, a fair amount of shopping, and a lot of treasured moments. Oh, and food. Of course there was good food.
Eight nights in India. Eight wonderful, yet exhausting nights.
Keeping all the typical tourist-y things aside, while travelling along the Delhi – Vrindavan – Agra – Ajmer – Jaipur – Delhi route, I had the honour of experiencing several “it happens only in India” moments, plus other things that I noticed about life and human nature in general too. Here are a few of the observations I made during my time in India.
Crossing lines, crossing borders
Something I wrote on the first day, upon arrival at the New Delhi Airport.
If there’s one thing I learnt in my trips across the world, what more by living in different countries; it’s that each place has different levels of “how much do I need to keep my guard up”. You could be a bunch of civilized human beings boarding a plane from Singapore, and just as the plane touches down and traffics into a city in, case in point, India, your guard just goes up. My mum made a pretty interesting observation. “People from India are so bold,” she said. To which I responded that they had to be, look at their dog eat dog lives, forever required to guard their position in life in such a competitive, and let’s not forget, corrupted country.
We exited the plane to see the same bunch of people who were sleeping peacefully on the flight turn into a very rough, rushy, aggressive and competitive bunch. I couldn’t help but smile. A few seconds after delighting in this well made observation, though, I had no choice but to become one of them.
(Insert number here) shades of people
You truly meet all sorts of people on your travels. The nice, the not so nice, children, young people, old people, and why stop at people? Of course there are the cows, crows, camels, monkeys, elephants (which I refused to sit on – talk about animal torture!) and I even had the honour of having a rat run pass me!
I breathed the same air they did (let’s keep the thoughts on how India smells like aside here, people), I walked along the same paths they did and, oh boy, did I try communicating in the same language they did. I remember trying to explain something in Hindi to our extremely reliable driver, Parveenji – who was with us throughout the trip, and after attempting a few lines in Hindi, I apologised for my horrendous language capabilities. He giggled and said, “actually your Hindi is better than (insert name of an Indian politician whose Hindi isn’t so proper here)”. Yay, compliments!
Which brings me to the conversations. We had so much to talk about, although I spent most of the trip listening to my dad speak about Indian politics. And while there are those who will never fail to be patriotic, there are those who have no love for their country. And why should they? They probably have seen enough hardship, were probably not given support or help from the people who are supposedly out there to help you, etc, etc.
What I found hypocritical about India is that, there are many sides to each story. And more often than not, you will never be able to seek out the truth. The communities in India tend to have a “think-alike” mindset and it’s extremely hard to break it, especially if you have no clue who the leader(s) of the pack is. And everyone is somehow or the other trying to cover up a truth, no matter how small. It’s ironic, considering that Gandhi worked so hard to promote Satyagraha. But I’m generalising, of course.
Appreciate me not
After having seen so many sights, witnessed so many beautiful monuments, I was somehow left India with a scar in my heart. I was upset. Upset at how locals didn’t know how to appreciate the beauty of their country. It’s sad to see India disappear under a huge pile of garbage like that. One of the highlights of my trip was going to Ajmer – where my dad was raised. I will never forget how my father was genuinely disappointed at how the city he spent his childhood days in turned out. How the people had no respect for property and well, for other people. It was heartbreaking to see him like that and mum and I had to keep reminding him that many years had passed since he last visited Ajmer and cities do change.
You would’ve thought visiting the other tourist destinations in India would make me feel good. I mean, I’ve always wanted to visit these places and I finally have. Especially the Taj Majal. But no, I wasn’t as ecstatic. In fact, after seeing all the vandalism, the scratches, the snatches and all, I couldn’t help but wonder what our ancestors would feel if they saw the conditions their beautiful landmarks are in now. But, oh well, I was glad I got to visit these places – at least I have a story to tell my grandkids! And it’s good to know that a lot of restoration works are being done at a lot of the landmarks I visited, too.
There are people who make it a point to try and change this mindset, but many of these voices get lost in transition. Voices of superheroes, political powers, helpful citizens get drowned amongst the noise pollution in the country. Voice out and your opinions might get stamped on by people with power. By people in general. One voice isn’t loud enough to be heard in a country with a billion people.
India has come very far; it’s a beautiful country and I’m proud that my roots are attached to a country like this. But it’s going to take a long time for one-way mindsets to evolve.
At the end of the day, I found that I left India with the smile on my face, I was happy because I finally got a taste of how India is actually like. Albeit disappointed by a few things here there, I was still skipping about (literally, sometimes).
I also have police inspector/security guards I met at the Delhi Airport at 7am before my departure back to Singapore to thank for cheering me up before my departure. Corrupted or not, boy were they funny!
Thank you, India. You have opened my eyes and made me grateful for what I have.