Tuesday, January 26, 2016

TRAVEL // Five Things I Learned From Living in India

Oops, I did it again.  I can't believe how long its been since my last post.  I confess that I'm not a blogger with lofty ambitions of gaining this many pageviews or followers per day.  I really just want to start writing again for my family and friends, who are wondering what the heck I'm doing with my life.  And it was never my intention to stop blogging all together.  However, I greatly underestimated just how long it takes to get settled in a new place.  I don't mean a new house but a new COUNTRY.

Because I did it.  As of September of 2014, I've been in India (read this blog post if you're confused).  Sometimes I have to pinch myself because I can't believe I actually had the guts to do this.  I'm no daredevil nor adrenaline junkie.  I can't even watch scary movies without asking my little brother to bunk with me that night (and every night that week).  I like to play it safe, stick to what I know and be in bed by midnight.  I'm so incredibly happy I got to do this because it's astounding how much you learn about yourself when you are taken out of your comfort zone.

As today marks India's Republic Day, the day the Constitution of India came into force, I wanted to write down a few realizations I've had since moving to india.  Afterall, India is a teacher and travellers are its students.

1.  Go with the flow.  I've had to deal with chaos, crowds, small insects, large rodents, illness and unwanted attention, among other things.  What I learned from all that is to look at the big picture and have faith that everything will work out.  In fact, everything is unfolding just as it should and the universe is gently guiding me towards lessons I should learn to grow.  We can control how we see the world, whether it's rose-colored for some or black-and-white for others.  We can focus on the bad or choose to be happy and adapt to our surroundings.

2.  Waste not, want not.  I can't believe what a wasteful human being I am.  I grew up with separate paper products for my every need, from toilet paper to paper towels to napkins, etc.  There's simply no need for all this.  I learned that you can clean a glass table top to shine like new with a few pages from an old newspaper.  And it's not just the poor who make do without but all Indians, no matter their background, are remarkably resourceful and efficient.

3.  People are good. My family's number one fear was my safety in India.  It's true that, unfortunately, India is known for conmen and other unscrupulous characters.  Many Indians are poor and this explains their behavior to a large degree.  From a young age, my parents taught me to never, ever disclose that I was foreign.  This instilled a lot of fear in me and I was distrusting of anyone who offered me help.  However, I see now that if you open your heart with faith and a feeling of goodwill, you will often be awarded with kindness.  Sometimes extraordinary kindness.  I can't tell you how many times people have gone out of their way to welcome me.  I had a taxi driver the other day who was so happy to learn I was a guest in his country, he proudly showed me various points of interests along the way.  I still have trouble communicating clearly, especially when it comes to paying for things and giving directions so I rely on the kindness of others and my own intuition.  I believe that life is a response to what you are projecting.  If you are suspicious, you will be met with suspicion.  If you are scared, then you will have a scary experience.  When you travel, you open yourself up in a new way and give others the opportunity to help you.  It's a lesson in the interconnectedness of life.

***Disclaimer (for Nishan):  I don't take risks, never return home alone at night, depend on family and friends when in doubt, and dutifully carry my pepper spray wherever I go.

4.  The children are the answer.  For a democratic country, India is still stuck in the past.  With a culture so rich and traditions dating back to the beginning of time, this is a wonderful thing in todays  modern world. But the truth is that India has a long way to go in some areas.  To kiss your boyfriend or husband in public is a punishable crime, yet littering and public urination have no such repercussions.  I used to think that because of the poverty and homeless families living on the street, the piles of trash over running major cities was unavoidable.  While that is still very much true, I was shocked to find my generation of educated, modern youth using the streets as their garbage can, chain smoking without thought to their health and traditions pushed aside.  I kept wondering why they couldn't see the harm they were doing and I think it's because they were raised by a generation who also didn't see the harm they were doing.  I don't mean to say that they are bad people and the rest of us who don't litter and smoke are good.  But just that children, in all societies, are a product of their environment.  I worry about India's future and what she will look like years from now.  Will it be a place I can bring my own children or will the India I know be buried under more trash from the next generation?  I hope that we can invest our time and energy in to the children of today so that they can imagine a brighter future while preserving the heritage that makes this nation so great.

5.  Home is where the heart is.  And mine is torn into a few dozen pieces.  It seems everywhere I go, I leave a little bit of myself behind.  As soon as I leave any place, I begin to think about when I can return and all the things I didn't get to see this time.  I get homesick for America quite often, especially during any holiday, but I know that if I step on to a plane, I'll miss India something fierce.  This knowledge is what keeps me here, through all the hardships and culture shock.  It's worth all that.  I want to experience everything and see as much as I can so when it is time to go home, maybe it won't hurt quite as much.

Happy Republic Day, India!
Vande Mataram!

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