The overwhelming aspects of India are balanced by understanding the bliss of simply being
All the things you hear are true. The stench, the mountains of garbage, the land mines of human feces, true. The intense ear pollution, the choking diesel fumes, the persistent touts yup. The beggars, the disfigured lepers, the clever scams, check. The homeless children, the struggle of humanity, the high likelihood of getting really, really sick absolutely.
All the darkest, dirtiest, sensory-assaulting things you hear about India, they are all true. A population of 1.1 billion and counting churns inside a landmass about a third the size of Canada. To say that it is overwhelming to even a seasoned traveler would be an understatement. Ready or not, Mother India presents you with a rawness enough to break your heart or as the case would be, a rawness enough to open it.
In the midst of all the chaos that is India lay many lessons for the wayward traveler. Always wash your hands; watch where you step; the customary sideways head wobble that means "yes," "no," "maybe," "I dont understand" and "I want to overcharge you dramatically" are some that stand out.
It quickly becomes clear how fortunate many of us are to have grown up in a place where we are afforded so many blessings. Like others, I was often reminded of the fact that there were children in India (Africa/China/any other ravaged, overpopulated part of the world) who would love to eat my liver or lima beans. As usual mom was right and as an adult I can now appreciate all of the things I was afforded as a Westerner that my Indian counterpart was denied.
However, there are some things I now see that my T-ball teammates and I were in fact denied something that comes from living in a place where culture and religion are one and the same, where God shows up more than once a week in a few hymns and some stained glass. That something is faith.
A crazy thing has happened in the West, the tables have turned and traditional faith is "uncool." No prayer in schools, banning of religious symbols, debate surrounding turbans in the RCMP . The cultural melting pot creates realistic challenges and it becomes harder and harder to remember that faith has been at the center of our civilization since it all began. Where has it gone? I cannot answer that but I know where it has never left: India.
As with any other good Indian travel story, it all began with getting sick. I mean really sick. I mean if-you-have-been-to-India-you-know-how-sick-I-mean sick. And then my girlfriend, Krista, got even sicker. In-a-hospital-on-an-IV sicker. During it all I remember lying in bed and actually asking for Gods help, saying out loud, "I am soooo sorry I have doubted you sir, madam, great one please. whoever you are, make it stop!" And then, thanks to God and/or high-powered antibiotics, it did.