I love my India… you can find this phrase printed on stickers, T-Shirts and posters in tourist shops all over India. I love this statement, because it is just so true!
I think I have to explain something about my blog. I am writing about “my” India. India is a little universe by itself. There are as many Indias as there are Hindu gods, 33 million of them!
The country consists of 28 states, every state has its region, there are 22 official languages and there is a great deal of dialects, too. Each place has its own culture and traditions. It could be compared to one of those Russian Babushka dolls, something always contains something more and you never know where this ends.
If you come to India, what you see, live and experience not only depends on where you go, but also on how you travel, with whom and who you meet.
So when I talk about my India, I refer to my personal experiences. You might go or have been to the same places but have a completely different opinion.
My India is influenced by its village people, the backpackers, the freaky travelers, old and young hippies, spiritual seekers, more or less trustable Sadhus, budget hotels, local buses and sleeper class train trips and the simple but complicated things. I have little contact with modern Indian society and the big cities. Maybe because I don’t feel attracted to it, since this is what I miss the least from back “home”.
Sometimes people in Europe ask me “How is India?” There is no answer to this question. India is full of contrasts at all levels. I think that it is what you make of it or what it makes of you, which in the end is the same thing.
A couple of times I went to a Mall in Delhi and in Varanasi. There was a doorkeeper at the entrance to make sure only “acceptable” people would come in. I guess he let me in, because I am European, as I looked anything but acceptable in my shabby hippie travel clothes. But I only realized that when I saw the pretty, modern Indian girls inside the mall in their jeans and tight T-Shirts and the young guys with the latest haircuts, cool sunglasses and brand-name shirts.
In my India the dress code kind of loses its importance and after some months of hardcore travelling, you don’t even notice anymore that your clothes have several holes or that what once was white has turned into an undefinable shade. And one ends up hanging out with people who just look the same, so you don’t realize this until you meet someone who is “acceptably decent”.
The best thing of the mall, that I imediately enjoyed, was the aircondition as it was terribly hot outside. I was no longer used anymore to all the artificial bright lights and it took some time to get adjusted to all the sparkling and shining windows and the high gloss polished floors. I went to enjoy the shop windows and it felt as if I had been beamed into another reality, which felt somehow familiar to me. All the shops and brands you can also find in any mall in Europe were there and on the top floor there was a huge foodcourt and cinema halls. I even bought a cup of expensive Italian ice-cream. I stood at one of the big glass walls overlooking the street and looked down.
Suddenly my ice-cream didn’t taste that good anymore. Out there were the stuffy, grey pollution, the sweaty Rickshaw drivers waiting for passengers, dirty street-kids begging at the traffic light, scabby dogs sniffing around, pavement dwellers having a nap on the side of the dense traffic and cows chewing on plastic bags in the middle of the road. Yep, the real world, my India, was out there!
What I want to say is that I don’t intend to generalize anything, even if it sometimes might sound like it. Nothing is better or worse than the other thing. Things are just different, and so are experiences.
May your India be with you!