It’s been only five days, five quick days, but already my love for India has once again been re-confirmed. I wasn’t exactly sure how it would feel to be back in this intriguing nation this time around as my last visit was a somewhat distant three years ago and my life has changed a great deal since then.
Perhaps India would no longer excite me. Perhaps I would find the intensity and chaos to be too much for me these days. Perhaps I’d be better to just stick with the memories of my previous visits and not try to relive my experiences.
Those are the kind of thoughts that swirled around inside my head during the weeks leading up to my arrival, reaching the peak of their intensity mid-way through my flight to Delhi last week.
And then that flight landed and I stepped foot outside the airport where I immediately encountered that all-too-familiar sea of Indian faces waiting for arriving passengers, many holding signs, all jostling for space among the crowd, some wearing jeans, some in uniforms, others wearing a shalwar kamiz or the robe of a Buddhist monk, women wandering the area in their bright, multicolored saris, there were Sikhs and Hindus and Muslims and Tibetans and more, many were sipping cups of chai, and all of them were helping to provide a glimpse of things to come, of the brilliant adventure that awaits, for all those visitors walking out of the airport.
As I myself stood there for a moment in front of all those people, just minutes after my arrival, I took a deep breath and cracked a small smile. This first sight of India was all it took for me to realize that the bond between this country and I was still as strong as it ever has been.
Why I Love India…
Now that five days have passed, that feeling is even stronger. After all, in this short period of time, I have already been blessed by a holy man, encountered two massive elephants, not to mention cows, bulls, donkeys, monkeys and pigs wandering around the streets, found myself stuck in the middle of an impromptu festival procession, been hit in the leg by a rickshaw, interacted and enjoyed interesting conversations with dozens of locals, drank dozens of cups of chai with shop owners, hotel employees and other strangers I’ve met…
…accepted an invitation to someone’s home where I ate a supremely delicious home-cooked meal of dahl and mixed vegetables alongside a small group of Indians representing several regions of the country and several different religions as well, stuffed my face with food from my favorite roadside food stalls in Connaught Place, stepped in a huge pile of cow crap in the middle of the street, got that wonderful shave for 40 cents from the barber I’ve been to many times over the years, drank a yummy sweet lassi every day, witnessed a late-night wedding celebration in the middle of the lane near my hotel, ate fresh pomegranates and papayas, survived the crossing of several insanely busy roads (crosswalks nowhere in sight!), had a most pleasant exchange with a heavily armed soldier while at the airport, took a ride on the impressive Delhi metro and watched a parade involving traditional Indian music, chanting, fireworks and men in uniform riding around on white horses.
While some of the experiences mentioned above might seem positive and others may seem a bit on the unfortunate side of things, this is what India is all about for the traveler… non-stop exposure to a completely different way of life and to an environment that repeatedly shocks, surprises and confuses, and quite often, at the very same time, overjoys and changes the lives of foreign visitors.
And this is the India that I have loved for so many years, the India that has enticed me to return over and over again for so long, the India that, as it turns out, I still love so very much.
On a side note, I just wanted to give every one of you readers, as I like to do quite often, a huge thank you. Without the community that you helped create on this site, there is no possible way that WanderingEarl.com would have been named one of TIME magazine’s Best Blogs of 2012 last week. So once again, I thank you.
And between that and being in India with my group, this sure has proven to be one of the most memorable months of my blogging career.
Let’s hear your thoughts, good and bad, about India and please share any questions you may have about traveling to this country as well!