I’ve recently returned from a month in India with my husband. We travelled from south to north, experiencing as much as we could, given its vastness. We visited 13 cities and towns, rode 5 overnight buses and several day buses, caught 3 trains and 1 houseboat.
It takes a certain curiousity to want to visit a place like India. Everything you hear and read about – the colours, the smiles, the chaos, the cows, the poverty, the spices, the touts, the hard labour, the caste system, the buzzing markets – it’s all played out right before your eyes, just as you imagined after reading Shantaram. The real difference between India and everywhere else, is that India sees you.
India takes energy. So much energy. You either need to be ready to give it everything, or you lock yourself away. Because as soon as you walk outside, India welcomes you with an assault on the senses. It’s loud, dusty, often hot, with unruly traffic, crowded streets, touts calling for your attention or following you farther than you thought practical.
While the Taj Mahal is truly awesome. The greatest spectacles were in the small things. The way an Indian man greets you with proud eyes, the way an Indian woman asks curious questions about you, the way Indians’ eyes search you. You will bear witness to things that will make you smile, laugh, cringe and cry.
When friends and family ask what India was like, I say, India was everything. There you will feel the full spectrum of human emotion, you will find true connections with strangers, you will see yourself in others, your very essence will be revealed and you will undoubtedly shrink away from your own reflection.
It is a place like no other. A place with unmatched beauty and spirituality, challenging your very core and loving you in the process. I am in love with India.