India: An Ironic Contradiction

India is an ironic contradiction.

Attempting to describe a country as diverse and intense as this one is attempting to do the impossible, yet everywhere you go within it, on every winding Himalayan trail and polluted Delhi side street, the impossible becomes the expected.

 

India Gate

 

Cows and monkeys roam the roads as if nature’s hierarchy has been turned upon its head and little boys, barefoot and grinning, throw fireworks outside a hidden Jainist temple, unexplainably and charmingly content. An old man with a glass eye who wears a coat of dirt and scars, sits on the pavement, praying, oblivious to the chaos that surrounds him and a small girl with mismatched socks sits on the doorstep of her isolated mountain home, her baby brother asleep in her arms.

It shouldn’t work. It couldn’t and wouldn’t anywhere else, but for whatever reason, in India, these elements don’t just ‘work’ or merely ‘exist’, they thrive. Each and every part of this complex and confusing country has a purpose, even if this is simply to contribute, however insignificantly, to making it what it is. The discarded shoe in an unmarked alleyway, the gold toothed rickshaw driver putting his four children through school and the stall selling fruit crawling with insects and coated in dust, none of these things should be overlooked or disregarded due to their seeming lack of importance. A puzzle with only one piece doesn’t really make a picture, does it?

 

Old Delhi

 

I’ve always found exaggerated descriptions somewhat difficult to take seriously, yet I cannot seem to ignore the fact that India is special. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what it is about the country that leaves such a lasting impression on it’s visitors but I’m fairly certain it has something to do with the specific kind of atmosphere over there. An atmosphere I believe can only accurately be described as alive. The people, the places, the music, the food, it’s all just a little brighter and a little sharper than the quaint, quiet English village I call home.

India demands to be noticed, and notice it I have.

The Ganges

 

Lengthy, emotional declarations of how a place like India changes someone are to be expected and descriptive tales of how lives of visitors have been influenced by their experiences there are naturally going to follow. Be that as it may, I’m not entirely sure India did change me, at least not in a manner so drastic it is noticeable. In fact, I’m not entirely convinced I agree with this sentiment at all. I don’t think a place changes you, it’s everything and more importantly, everyone within it that can influence who you are. I don’t want to be misinterpreted, my Asian adventure was breathtaking, nonsensical and unforgettable all at the same time and was, undeniably, a trip of a life time, but did it alter who I was, who I am?

I’m not so sure.

India did not make me look at myself or review the life I live in any extreme fashion, instead, it sparked my interest in others.

 

Agra

As the trip went on, I became more and more interested in the people we met, from those we passed on the Delhi streets to others we shared a train with in the early hours of the morning. For us, a group of forty teenage girls travelling on a school trip for just two weeks, we experienced only a snapshot of India, just enough to leave us wanting more. However, for those we met along the way, it is more than just a destination, it is a home.

It’s incredible when you think of just how vast India is, both in geographical size and population but in it’s culture and diversity too. Everyone living there has a story to tell and each and every one is as interesting and contrasting as the next, but together, side by side, these people and their stories create a country utterly unique in nature.

I was privy to only a few tales on my travels but even the small amount I learnt was incredible. The elder of a remote, Himalayan village told us a tale of his one on one battle with a leopard in which he lost his eye, our guide who led us through her crazy country spoke passionately of her childhood spent skiing across the world and the business man with which we shared a sunrise on a train informed us carefully of his love for dogs and boasted proudly of his daughter’s education. These were just those we were lucky enough to speak to, there were, there are so many more, each making their own memories and writing their own stories on one of our world’s greatest stages, India.

 

A Himalyan corner shop

A man I know once said something rather insightful. Before we departed our teacher made sure we wrote a little quote of his down ‘behind very closed door, there is a story.’ It seems in India, within every person there’s an entire wealth of them.


For an insight into my recent return to India, click here!

globetrottingteen

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102 thoughts on “India: An Ironic Contradiction

  1. India is a really interesting country. The culture, the history and the clash of differences are something very special. I like your perspective on the country. It makes it look even more special!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We *loved* India – we spent 3 months in Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu, and another 2 months touring Delhi, Rajasthan, Agra and Varanasi. It was an extraordinary time as I’m sure you can imagine. Your post about it captures well the chaos and the contradictions.
    Alison

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great write up. India really is alive. You’ve done a great job to capture the warped realities which you see, and come to expect to see day to day.

    I think if you go back one day in a smaller group you might be more prone to the personal change that India can bring about.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Having backpacked through India on my own for a month back in 1985, your blog brought back many memories, thanks! 😉 I’ll always remember arriving at the Delhi airport and bumping into some Swedish backpackers that were agitated and flying home after 3 days in India- they “couldn’t handle the poverty, chaos, filth, and men!” Their trip was supposed to last a couple of months.

    From your photos and words, it doesn’t look/sound as if things have changed much since then. However, what has changed and it’s not surprising, is the disparity between the rich and poor; apparently about 450,000 Indians are now in the “middle class”.
    I shall have to visit India again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog, I’m glad it brought back happy memories for you! I can’t really comment on whether the country has changed since your visit but from your encounter with the Swedish backpackers who found India to be somewhat overwhelming, it does indeeed sound like it remains the intense and wild place that it’s always been. I can only imagine how exciting backpacking through India must have been, I hope that you do get the chance to visit again!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Being an Indian, most of what you’ve written about is part of my daily life and thus, I tend to ignore the little details, but your post makes me appreciate it and I’m absolutely grateful for that. Beautifully written!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Hey! Your perspective on India really makes me thing more deeply about it. Having always lived in India and only been outside India once in my life, seeing cows and monkeys on the roads and all that is so normal for me. I often tend to overlook the small things that make India unique and your post really captures the essence of the country or at least Delhi! Loved reading it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wonderful post! I spent a few months living in India and I too found it quite difficult to describe to anyone who had not experienced it firsthand. A beautiful, chaotic place indeed. Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

  8. loved your post!
    True, India is vast. Living in India, i guess i have barely scratched the surface of what the country has to offer, in terms of landscape, people, culture and everything that go around it!

    Hope you get to come down again!
    Cheers..!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Stepping in India is a culture shock to many but once you accept it, it seems possible.

    As they say, you can love it, some might hate it but you definitely cannot ignore India..

    cheers!

    Liked by 5 people

  10. I just came across your blog and love it. You have described India perfectly! I grew up in India and to be honest, even I haven’t fully explored the country. It is so diverse.. did you get a chance to visit Mumbai or the southern part of India?

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Wauw! Your perspective of India is interesting, but your way of writing is amazing!
    “It shouldn’t work. It couldn’t and wouldn’t anywhere else, but for whatever reason, in India, these elements don’t just ‘work’ or merely ‘exist’, they thrive.” Well written!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. What a wonderful article you wrote on India !! I am definitely going to reblog this article which I already did 😉 This has been one of the best article I’ve read related to India. Waiting for more from your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Yes. A very accurate representation of India. I am a proud Indian. Whenever I ask my parents to take me to foreign countries, they always reply- you haven’t seen enough of India and you want to see other countries now? Such diversity in the long run makes us culturally receptive.
    Thanks for the brilliant blog post though.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I finally found some time to read this article, I planned on doing so because I was curious as to what I would learn from it being that I am currently learning of Indian culture in school, and I must say it is a whole new perspective than the textbooks give. I absolutely love your word choice and the way you describe their elements of culture, the people, street life and such. You are an absolutely brilliant mind Harriet, I am unashamedly fond of your work. I love this post and I now understand why you have such a powerful group of people as followers. I definitely wish to read more of your posts and I am super excited to be apart of this movement! Congrats! Good luck on the rest of your adventures, I plan to join you through your reading during your many experiences!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much. It really does mean a lot that you enjoy my work and I’m so glad that I’ve been able to share my experiences of a country as wonderful as India with you. I can’t wait to read many more of your posts in the future, good luck! ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

  15. So I came to your blog, and felt naturally drawn to this post, belonging from across the border in Pakistan. I must say, you managed to capture the snapshot really well and the whole place is simply a huge melting pot of so many different cultures, people, realities and stories.

    Although my grandfather used to be in India before its partition (not sure if you’re familiar with the region’s history), I’ve never visited India. I would love to go to Delhi, Agra and Goa, among other places.

    And if i would recommend a side trip, I would say: do visit Lahore in Pakistan. Pakistan and India share many realities, and although Pakistan is not considered an especially secure tourist haven, the city of Lahore still remains a well-traversed spot for tourists. Along with Delhi and Agra, it is one of the jewels of old India. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Thanks for dropping by my blog and following. No doubt you will have seen how India has enriched my life. I have to keep going back. Around every corner there’s something that challenges and excites. Years ago I met a French woman who had been visiting for 22 years and she said she hadn’t seen half of it. That’s why I keep going back. That’s why you need to go back. I want to know it all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading. I only visited India once and I was shocked by just how diverse the country was, there were times in different areas when I felt like I had travelled to an entirely new location. I completeley understand your desire to explore it further and I look forward to reading about your adventures.

      Like

  17. As an Indian, I am so happy that you have not fallen trap to the existing stereotypes and viewed this country through those lenses. India is a complex organism and none of us have figured out till now how we function, thrive in this chaos 🙂
    Thanks for sharing your experience. Just makes me fall in love with this diversity once again!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Thank you so much for visiting India. I greatly take pride in the culture and heritage of my country and yet I can’t help feeling apprehensive about what foreigners will think when they visit my country. There can be no doubt that they’ll be impressed by our diversity and culture, but what about the less favourable things such as poverty? Your perspective of my country makes me take greater pride in being Indian, and gives me assurance that there are people like you who can find beauty and be fascinated with what other people find ugly and dirty.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Thanks for stopping by at my blog. This is a fascinating post, really. As an Indian and a self confessed indophile rediscovering his own country through numerous solo trips, there was much in your post that resonated. Especially second the sentiment ‘a place does not change you’. Life here is indeed vibrant , chaotic but above all, very immediate and in your face. Hope you’d return. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Hi there, I love the way you describe the nuances of India. Very few foreign travellers grab it so well. But then we all have our perspectives. May you get to see the other parts of India too and happy travelling. Thank you for dropping by my blog btw.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Hi Harriet,

    Thank you so much for visiting my blog.
    wow… you are so young and have been to so many places all ready. That is just incredible.

    BTW I loved your post on India. keep writing.

    Thanks,
    Jyoti

    Liked by 1 person

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