India; the land of spirituality.
If that’s what you’re thinking, you’d better close this page right now, for I’d hate to be the one to burst that bubble.
The first taste of India the traveler gets stepping off the airplane is the stench. The air is thick with it and with every breath you feel like you’re swallowing decades’ worth of pollution. You are.
India is a vast country, land of over one billion people, the vast majority of whom are unfathomably poor. I’m not dropping big words just for the sake of it here; when I say unfathomably, I mean unfathomably.
It is also one of the BRICS, the world’s largest, fastest growing and most influential economies – growth and development comes at a price, I guess. The best example I can give you, the most representative of the Indian society, is TATA group. TATA is a multinational conglomerate company, owned by the Tata family. If you’ve ever been to India, you have most certainly helped the Tata family make a few more rupees: the bus you rode was made by Tata, the tea you drank was packaged and sold by Tata, the hotel you stayed in might have been owned by Tata, the SIM card you bought for your phone -if you were staying long enough to need an Indian number- was Tata…as an Indian friend once put it “they make everything, from our cars to our salt”. And it pains me to remember just how proud he was.
It might sound like I’m contradicting myself, but India is also beautiful. The nature is amazing, even if it is bleeding for the sake of this so-called development. While I was in Kochi, someone told me that the situation is irreversible, that people have destroyed nature to such an extent that there is no saving it anymore. The thick black liquid flowing in the streams and rivers all around the country was enough to convince me. Still, in a land as vast as this the landscape diversity can be overwhelming on its own. Furthermore, India has a very long and rich history, and spirituality has undoubtedly thrived in all its forms in that land – just don’t confine yourself to an Ashram, there should be a limit even to pretentiousness.
There are amazing places and lovely people to meet in India, just like anywhere in the world. But try not to be the happy-go-lucky type of tourist, taking snapshots of old women in their saris or malnourished children in their colorful rags. Respect is what you owe to the land that hosts you during your holidays – especially if you’ve spent for those holidays more than would be needed to feed the population of a slum for a couple of months.
*I really wanted to write an article about all the lovely things in India, but apparently my default writing style is dispelling-the-myths and pointing-out-the-misery! Well, maybe next time.