Early in our trip, an acquaintance said that “No one has a right to be bored in India.” Founder of several successful NGOs, she was referring to India’s vast opportunity – to do good, to be entrepreneurial, to learn new things. After two and a half months there, we understand only a tiny fraction of what is possible.
We saw so much – in our final weeks alone we traveled west to Rajasthan, north on the Ganges, and to an abandoned city outside of Agra; saw rural and urban, yogis and gurus, hip and hippie, and poor and prominent. But India is so diverse, so vast, and so ancient that years wouldn’t do it justice.
In fact, diversity seems to be what the country thrives on. It’s represented by the sounds – the constant cacophony of Hindi music, Muslim calls-to-prayer, honking horns, hawkers, construction, and conversation. Another acquaintance, an Indian, told me that he breaks into a cold sweat when he’s in places that are too quiet – it makes him feel as if something bad might happen. And despite its share of prejudices and conflict, the majority of Indians live peacefully and tolerantly with their ethnically and religiously different neighbors.
Another striking feature of India is its resilience. An American living in Mumbai commented, not entirely positively, on Indians’ ability to shrug off seeming catastrophes, whether accidents or natural disasters or terrorist attacks. It’s a feature noticeable even among our drivers, whose calm in the midst of punishing, chaotic traffic was universal. Is it indifference? Disregard? Or something deeply spiritual? Again, we don’t feel we were there long enough to really understand.
We did, however, come to understand a lot about our own resilience during our time in India. The constant moving around, homesickness, and sensory overload tested us each individually and as a family. But we made it, and now we feel like we can do anything. Being in Thailand, where we are for a few days, is like taking a big, deep, relaxing breath.
Our friend Jeff Legro aptly compared India to the optical illusion of the old woman and the young girl. On the surface it shows you one thing – dirt, poverty, colorful chaos. But look at it another way it’s something else entirely – beautiful, rich, and boundless. We were fortunate to have the chance to taste all those things, even just a bit.