Shanti, Shanti

Trip Start May 04, 2011
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Trip End Oct 08, 2012


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Flag of India  , Maharashtra,
Wednesday, January 25, 2012

After a three month hiatus from blogging I think I have finally found the strength to capture in writing some of the amazing experiences I've had here in India.

Prior to arriving everyone had one thing to say about India, "you either love it or hate it." I tend to fall toward the latter opinion but with a strong pull to appreciate it while here. There are certainly several unavoidable nuances that keep me from loving it, however; I am not opposed to returning again someday. In the meantime here is a flavor of the India I've experienced.

Based solely on the fact that India is the second largest population in the world with 1.22 billion, it is a fair statement "that one is never alone here." There is a constant buzz in the air with one dominating and most unavoidable sound. From south to north it is nearly impossible to escape the incessant honking of horns caused by every form of transportation imaginable; all fighting for dominance through the narrow streets without sidewalks. As a pedestrian it is a constant struggle to avoid getting hit by the yellow and black rickshaws, 60 year old rusted push bikes, scooters, motorbikes, buses, tractors, large tourist vans or cows.

Speaking of cows, I think it is only now, after three months in India that I am getting used to sharing the road with the worshipped animals. It's almost a game trying to dodge both the beast and its excrements on the ground. However, as of late, I’ve actually come to appreciate them; especially since they serve as a vacuum for the mounds of trash scattered in their path.

Filthy doesn’t even begin to describe the atmosphere in India. For starters they haven’t grasped the concept of trash bins yet. Garbage pollutes every corner until it is set ablaze; causing a large, suffocating smoke stack you can smell for miles. Any exposed space is safely considered a toilet and unfortunately poverty is prevalent throughout the country where mere babies are taught to ask for rupees or chapatti.

It is common to see a large percentage of villagers meandering about the city without shoes wearing clothes that look as if they haven’t been washed in weeks. In places with a water source, people gather around the Ghats to bathe and do laundry. But to give you an idea of the contamination level of the stagnant water, I’ve seen people going about their washing just feet from where elephant Laxmi was taking a very large dump

In India I’ve really had to come to terms with my neurosis about sanitation or lack thereof. I pull out the hand sanitizer less and less, especially after watching guys play with their feet just before handling the roti they serve. Thankfully, my stomach hasn’t been affected too often and the one time I suffered was probably due to bad chicken more than anything. Needless to say, I’ve since gone back to being vegetarian which is really easy to do here. There are so many delicious veg dishes and all the restaurants are labeled “veg” or “non-veg.” 

The stories I had heard about men staring at women relentlessly as if we were naked and not so subtly brushing or grabbing at various body parts are all true. If I had a dollar for every time a guy shouted “hello, where you from?” in an effort to engage in conversation I could afford to continue traveling for another year.

Sounds come at you from every direction. Everything is drowned out by the annoying beeping of the horns but a close second is the blaring boom-boom Bollywood blasted from poor quality loud speakers during the current wedding festivities. Mornings usually begin at 5:00AM with one or more of the following: call to prayer, temple chanting and bell ringing, guest house staff speaking at shouting level and/or using their cellphone as a stereo, and the inevitable dog barking. 

But with all the complaints I recognize the power of India and what draws so many visitors. The people are beyond hospitable, kind and easy to connect with. There is a true unity and family means everything. People are trustworthy beyond belief, I've seen vendors run after tourists who have left their wallets in the store. It's a treat to see Karma in play with every breath. 

 Everyone, locals and travelers alike have a heightened sense of spirituality, and discovering what that means to them. I watch people pray every time they pass a temple, which in some cases can be every 200 meters. Especially in holy cities, there is an inexplicable energy in the air that inspires people to gather and engage in philosophical conversation. Life here moves at a relatively slow pace, with an emphasis of being in the present moment. Hitting the nail on the head, I recognize that this attitude still remains one of my biggest challenges. Determined to transform my approach is probably the key reason for staying in India. Luckily as soon as I get stressed out trying to plan my next move, I am confronted with someone pegging my anxiety and reminding me to take a deep breath and let go. Shanti Shanti!


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Comments

Niamh Kane on

I love this piece Stacey it brought me back to the smells and noise and meandering vacuum cleaners instantly:)

Dot on

Despite all this you stayed for weeks & weeks!

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