Now that I have written 4 blogs on India, I ask myself: yoga aside, what are the simple truths or learnings from the experience?
No doubt my thinking will evolve over time but one month after arriving back home, this is what I am going to hold onto:
- Detail: I used to get very upset with drivers not indicating when changing lanes. Since India, I have lowered the threshold and decided that indicators fall into a broad category called “detail”. Similarly I am now delighted if a 3-lane highway remains as such and does not suddenly erupt into a 6-lane highway. Worrying about indicators and staying in the correct lanes (provided people are not reckless or speeding) amounts to detail. Road rage does not exist in India. It could be as a result of small Ganesha statues in vehicles or it may not be part of the Indian mentality. Either way, forget about detail and road rage should slip away
- Sound: I am the first person to run out of a grocery shop playing Boney.M over the festive season. I cling to the power of silence apart from one thing: the sound of an Indian auto rickshaw hooter. I miss the sound of these hooters. I have had to listen to cellphone video-clips of traffic in Varanasi to take me back to India in an instant. If I was not such a pacifist, I would petition our local traffic authority, requesting that all vehicle drivers be required on highways to hoot at least 3 times a day. My car’s hooter is being put to good use and I delight in it
- Time: we had 10 flights over 16 days. Not one flight’s departure or arrival time matched what we had on our itineraries. Did it matter? No. Did it matter that there was nobody to collect us at Delhi airport and we still have not found out what happened? No. Did it matter that the time was generally rounded up or down by locals when we queried the time? No. Time is a concept that we often hold dear and close to our hearts. When on holiday, surely time must bend and sway? Be guided by the sunset and sunrise, even if the smog outside is very thick. Make an assumption and work on the concept of “one moment, please” (translated as: “I may get back to you today, I may get back to you tomorrow, I may never get back to you”)
- Detachment: I am generally quite good about getting rid of “things”. Correction: I am excellent at it. I am however, a real softie when it comes to having functional beautiful things such as a SMEG kettle, Dualit toaster or a bespoke copper pipe lamp. I am very fond of such functional items but I am not attached to them. In India, what Westerners would regard as being non-functional, ugly or grubby, is not regarded as such. Old buildings are considered dear but there is detachment – the buildings are functional, evolve with time and nobody cares if a brick in the wall of an ancient building falls out or a thousand of them crumble to the ground. Beauty and perfection are subjective yardsticks. The more detached you are to the physical, the easier it is to transcend to the spiritual
- Submission and surrender: this is key when travelling in India. If you are going to fight the system (as tenuous and intangible as it is), you are fighting against yourself. Give in to the rickshaw chap who overcharges you, ignore the piles of rubbish on the side of the road, walk around the red betel nut spit, if you ask for your change at a chemist and instead get samples of cough sweets just smile and when the bank you have been directed to never existed, simply walk on. Have a chuckle, a smile, readjust your sunhat, check the bottom of your shoes, eat your Lay’s masala crisps and move to the next smile happening around the corner! Namaste!