Wednesday, August 02, 2006

How do you sum up India?

As my nearly a third of a year in India came to a close I tried to think of how on earth I could start to sum up the country, if not on paper then at least in my own mind. It would take a diligent lifetime to fully understand most countries but India is a different ball-game.

I have spent longer traveling India then any other country outside of my own, but despite racking my brains the best I can come up with is that it is indescribable. Surely nowhere else can have such diverse and interesting culture at such intensity. Over a billion people are squeezed into a country much smaller than other giants and it is better understood as a continent then a single country. North to south, east to west and everywhere in between the country alters, changes and never fails to grab your attention. From the mind-blowingly crazy collection of beliefs and traditions that is Hinduism with its monkey gods, rat temples and four-armed elephant headed sons of ultimately powerful destructive fathers, to one of the largest Muslim countries in the world, without forgetting the millions of Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and just about everything else - a lifetime of investigation would barely scratch the surface. Just names of religions do not demonstrate the complicated social systems and hierarchies that are intertwined with spiritual aspect and the fusion and diffusion caused by the mixing of so much so intimately.

Ultimately it is a country of riddle and wonder that it has been a privilege to even try to begin to unravel. A classic case of having no idea just how little you knew. Despite undoubted difficulties in just about everything you ever try to do (and I mean everything), and a number of underlying traits of the national psyche that I find it very hard to reconcile, I have left it enchanted. Not only have I discovered so much externally but also internally. Coming face to face with some of the worst poverty in the world, crazy climates and a business culture that seems to actively promote argument has developed me and my thoughts and I am thankful for that. From tigers to the Taj, Bollywood to Bangalore, Holi to Hampi to hippies and of course all the amazing people I have met, it has been an unforgettable and invaluable experience that I wish to repeat in the future.

I would though be lying if I said a Thai beach was not seriously appreciated at the end!
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