I have met many travelers, some who have been to India and others who long to travel to India. I have always been intrigued by the difference in attitudes between the two classes of travelers. While the latter is seduced by images of elephants on the road, dimpled street urchins and the alluring Taj Mahal the former usually talks of his travels to India with a reserved grin of someone who has gained wisdom through association.
Shakespeare said “All the world’s a stage“. I am not sure of the rest of world but I can vouch that it is true about India. Uninitiated travelers set foot into India expecting snake charmers and tarot card readers at every turn of the road. In return they are treated to the cacophony that coexists with the people in the towns of India. They hold on with their lives while the auto rickshaw zigzags its way through the almost un- penetrable shroud of people, cattle and vendors that spill onto the roads. Just when their hearts are about to give up the scenery shifts, the cacophony is replaced by the almost melancholy sound of paddy fields laying in wait for the rains. In almost a wink of an eye India has switched from one act to another.
India is an anomaly to the rest of the world. Where else does traffic meander around a sleeping cow on a highway? Where else in the world will the industrious worker replace his lack of a mirror with a reflection on a puddle? Where else does one find a land with affluent and offbeatpalaces with servants out numbering the actual residents neighboring overcrowded slums?
|Image : Christopher John SSF
In the subsequent acts the traveler grows accustomed to India. They find a melody in the cacophony. He learns to squat while relieving himself, to sleep through the bumpy bus rides, to eat wheat cakes with a generous dollop of butter at the side.
In the last act the traveler begins to understand India. He begins to understand that sometimes the impossible is also possible. He sees a land that has the magical lure of palaces and forts, of modern hospitals and monstrous malls. He begins to comprehend the coexistence of eighteen official languages. He learns patience. In short he becomes wiser, because letting go and letting India embrace him is the only option he has.
Long years later when he has traveled far and wide and he looks back at his time in India he will find himself agreeing with the great Mark Twain wrote, “The one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the world combined.”
This is Incredible India !