India: The Horrible Country That Has Stolen My Heart.
As the door once again closes on this wild love affair, I feel compelled to share what an incredible experience India has been.
The Land Of Contradictions
Here you will find nothing but nonsense.
India is constant tooting, talking, spitting, shouting, drums and trance music. India is silence and stillness. This is the home of bright rainbow saris and psychedelic temples. Here you will find picturesque mountains and beaches that glow with neon lights at night. India is dull dusty brown streets lined with rubbish and excrement. You will experience the foulest smells imaginable and eat the most exquisite food. You will meet the kindest people this planet has to offer but you'll need to filter through the worst. India will break you down and build you up, if only you find the strength to let go. India is many things and usually all at once.
Third Time Lucky
India can take some getting used to. My first visit to this wild and wise land lasted one month a few years ago. For one month I suffered. For one month I hated everything. For one month I walked around tense and scared of everyone and everything. For one month my poor travel buddy couldn't get a break. For one month and sometime after, I questioned my sanity. What is it I couldn't see that seemed so clear to everyone else? I honestly could not imagine why I would ever go back.
Naturally about a year or so later I found myself booking tickets back. I'd realised I was the one to blame for all my frustration and misery. Second time in and I saw things quite differently. I started on my own and was very quickly forced to stand alone with my fears. I was starting to see what all the fuss was about.
Another year and a half and I'm ready for another overseas trip. There was no question this time. It's India. I may be a little biased now but nothing quite comes close. Asia is crazy but India is in its own league. If it's a shakeup you're after then there's only one place to go. But a word of caution. The moment you step foot onto Indian soil your life will never be the same. Experience number three has shown me a world I only dreamed was possible. I got to test myself in new ways I never thought I'd survive. I found a new faith in humanity. I met the most open-minded, loving and non-judgemental humans everywhere I went, locals and travellers alike. When you eventually learn to look past the surface filth you'll find an unmatched richness and beauty to the people and the way they live here.
Is It Dharma You Seek?
The saying 'the truth hurts' is very appropriate here. India doesn't always give you what you want but it will forcefully give you what you need. That can be tough. Not only does the truth hurt but it can also be difficult to identify. Often in life, we see our misfortunes as external events that we are just unlucky to experience. Many Indians believe your current fortune is a reflection of the good or bad karma you earned in past lives. My belief lies somewhere between the two.
Our external world is simply a reflection of our inner world. If you hold anger and bitterness inside of you how do you expect the world to respond? If you're living a mindless, uncompassionate life then why would anyone show you anything else in return? You certainly don't need to visit a new country to see this but everything is intensified when you're in a country as heavy as this.
Many people I meet find their first experience to be confusing, mine too. I didn't understand why so many people rave about this place. It was horrible. It's noisy and dirty. Everyone stared and made me feel very uncomfortable. This, I now see, was exactly what I needed. I was living unconsciously. I was living in fear. I was projecting all my inner noise out onto everyone and everything I encountered. It was the same at home but home is familiar, we're accustomed to life there. We don't need to check ourselves when we've built little safe havens around us. When you land in India, she checks you from day one and keeps on pushing until you either get it or run home.
It takes very special circumstances to find unconditional love. The love a mother has towards her children, despite the flaws the rest of the world sees. A love I never understood until recently. During this last journey, I would constantly catch myself standing and smiling, looking at the streets and the people, my whole being in awe.
Often I would watch complete strangers help each other without any consideration. Looking through closed eyes it is easy to only see the chaos and the mess. What looks like a crowd of angry people yelling for no reason could be a crowd of people making way so an elderly woman can get through. What looks like predatory staring could be innocent, childlike curiosity. What looks like a thoughtless pile of burning rubbish could be the only way 1,370,219,389 people know how to clean up after themselves with very little infrastructure.
When a large part of your life is wondering how your family will eat, the rubbish building up around you isn't as important. This unconditional love has not blinded me to the very real problems this country faces. This experience has simply shown me a new way to approach things. If you want to help someone, you must do so with a love that knows no judgement. If you try to act with judgement you focus on the problem, not the solution. If you focus on the immense level of problems here then you will struggle to see it for the incredibly beautiful place it not only could be but already is.
I could write and write about my time here. I have enough stories to already last me a lifetime. To India, I am forever grateful. India has played a huge part in making me the person I am today. India has shown me what true love and gratitude feels like. I am grateful for the opportunity-rich life I was born into. The safe and clean air I grew up breathing. I am grateful for the chance to see a way of life I'll never truly understand.
To travel and live in India is to experience life in overdrive. Here you face your true self. I am grateful for the punishment. I am grateful for the non-judging space to explore who I really am. I am coming home now, not a changed man but a man who has come full circle to who he always was. India has shown me it's okay to be a mess. India has no shame. The people are who they are and the country is what it is. Even the selfie-obsessed youth, checking their matching hair cuts every minute have no shame in doing so in the middle of the street with everyone watching. When Indians make fun and tease it is not done to upset, it is done for the innocent desire to have fun and not be so serious all the time.
I hope I am fortunate enough to come back many more times throughout my life but if this is it, I will remain forever grateful. India you have my heart. I will endeavour to share your ancient wisdom with anyone who will listen.
Take the leap, go to India.