I returned from India over 5 weeks ago straight into the chaos of Heathrow airport at Christmas. As I stood in T5 trying to work out how I was going to get to Manchester, as my connecting flight was canceled, I realised the effect India had had on me … Amidst the chaos and stress I found nothing but amusement parts of India had been so hectic, in particular the vortex that is Mysore, I felt that nothing could ever stress me out again. 5 weeks on I still feel the same, OK sometimes I get worried about the future or frustrated with a situation or a colleague but on the whole I feel India has helped me realise how good life can be when you accept things to be the way they are …
India is a country of contradictions one day you hate it and the next you are in love with it. The chaos amazed and confused me. The country is so vibrant but even when admiring it’s beauty you are never far away from ugliness. On many occasions it’s beauty and unsightliness baffled me the litter is overwhelming and open desecration is just part of everyday life.
Whilst staying in Kerala a friend and I embarked on a conversation with a local gentleman who wants to start a program educating local people on the effects of littering on the health of the people and the land it’s self. It was during this conversation that I realised what a mammoth task it would be to re-educate an entire country. It is so baffling to me that people who are so proud of their beautiful country have no concept of how litter and desecration changes it.
Whilst working in tribal and rural villages you can not fail to see how house proud the people are. Their own environments are spotless and they spend all day sweeping the immediate exterior of their own property whether it is a small mud hut, tent or a large house. In complete contradiction to this they will quite happily leave all their rubbish on the side of the road or any other public area. After three months in India this still baffles me but this is just one example of the many contradictions that exist there. So why is it so easy to fall in love with the country?
When I arrived everything was so alien and every sight was exciting and new. There is something hypnotic about the bedlam that unfolds before your eyes as you travel through the towns and cities. By the time I left I had become accustomed to the chaos, the cows in the middle of the road, kids playing in the gutter, women washing their clothes in the rivers, rubbish everywhere and the beautiful quality of light had all become so ordinary to me. I found it quite upsetting when I became aware I was no longer amazed. It is incredible what you see with fresh eyes and what you miss with tiered ones. I was unsure when I left the country how I’d feel about it in the future and it has taken me a while to work it out. India is an Incredible country I look forward to going back someday not because the light is so good or the scenery so beautiful but because I learned so much from the people I met their.
I trekked and cycled through the most beautiful state of Kerala, lived outside under the stars, had interludes with wild elephants and many local people, taught hundreds of children the importance of washing their hands, photographed the team as they built houses and toilets and helped dig hundreds of meters of elephant trench. I will take many things away from my experience not least some very good friends.
I will always carry with me the attitude of the Indian people I met. Their relentless acceptance of their own situation enables them to be happy with what they have and not wish for something better, making them far more content and happy with life than any European I have ever met. One thing that didn’t change wherever I traveled was the warmth of the people. Everyone has a smile for you and will share everything they have with you and all they desire in return is to enjoy your company for a short while.
I would like to thank those people I worked with both Indian and European that showed me how rich life can be even without riches!! Here are a few the characters I came across on my travels.
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Kind Regards Polly xx