Choosing to honeymoon in a country like India is an unconventional choice when most couples chose more exotic locales. A choice I began to question. I had felt overwhelmed for most of this first week. A combination of jet lag, smog, the squalor of Delhi and the heart wrenching poverty. Why was the question…why am I here?
Upon deep reflection I have come to see India not singularly as a place of suffering but possessing great resilience, ingenuity and strength under very challenging conditions. The people we have met in our short time here are colorful, intelligent, skillful and authentic.
The cook at our home stay in Agra, Rav who was masterful in preparing our food in his wee rooftop kitchen. Amar, our diminutive auto rickshaw driver who had nerves of steel negotiating through the streets of Agra to the Taj. Even Ali, the shady taxi driver with a time weathered appearance reminiscent of old leather was a spirited show man. Entrepreneurs Kamal who managed the Pyrenees Hotel and our current host Ashok at the Jungle lodge. A small list of the biggest riches that India possesses…it’s people.
A time of quiet contemplation in Bharatpur has aided in answering my original question of why I’m here. At a time of great upheaval in the developed world, where ignorance and fear of “foreigners” is reaching new heights. It is more important than ever to immerse oneself in new and different places. To understand the world we live in and the people we share it with. It shifts my worldview in a manner that I have not experienced in twenty years.
To see past the disparities of the internet cafes and smart phones with the harsh poverty of slum settlements. For all it’s juxtapositions, intractable paradoxes and frustrations India is a compelling destination. Inviting and warm with it’s distinctive patina. The pungent mixture of diesel fumes, cooking spices and dung smoke casts a spell that few can forget. I still feel uncomfortable but that’s right where I need to be.