In India

This is my fourth visit to India. After my first, in 1989, I had no desire ever to return–India was too overwhelming, too difficult. Those exotic pictures you see of the Taj Mahal India give a false impression. Very little is graceful or elegant here. Rather it is dirty, noisy, chaotic–and endlessly fascinating.

I like that Indians don’t stare. This morning I went on a two hour walk through crowded streets and saw not a single non-Indian–nor did a single Indian stare at me.

The streets are filled with cars, bicycles, tricycles (the little auto-rickshaws that nose around like ladybugs) and, most of all here in Hyderabad, motorcycles. Men mainly drive them wearing western dress of trousers and collared shirt. Women are frequently behind, wearing Islamic trousers and shift (I don’t know the proper designation) or sari, in which case they ride side saddle. Only occasionally do the women wear western dress to match the men. You see a few women driving motorcycles or scooters, but never with a man behind.

Religion seems to purr along. Plenty of small temples and shrines are tucked into corners, and they appear to do steady business. A gated community high rise advertises, along with amenities like playground and parking and cricket pitch, a temple and a platform for meditation. Christianity is growing but you will see few signs of that. It is an invisible minority, staying intentionally under the radar.

Poverty exists in plenty but you see more beggars in San Francisco. India generally gives the sense of a healthy weed. There is a lot more money around than 20 years ago. I see it in restaurants, which sprout on every street corner, snack shops and bakeries and tea vendors along with restaurants of every standard. Need I mention that Indian food is extraordinarily tasty? And varied! One of my Indian friends said that India is like Europe multiplied by ten. Besides its diversity of region and language is the diversity of caste, which still very much defines a person’s identity. How does this extraordinary diversity form a single country that holds together?

There are, of course, amazing historical sites and spots of striking beauty. Also, more covert, signs of great wealth and ostentatious luxury. But these are almost swallowed up by the everyday bustling squalor. At a quick glance one doesn’t see much that attracts the eye. However, walk up and down one of those busy streets while looking sharply, and you will see amazing sights. Actually you shouldn’t walk while looking at things, because you are likely to be run over. What you need to do is stop and stare.

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2 Responses to “In India”

  1. Hearen Christian Says:

    Are you going to Mumbai, if yes or no try to contact JSK
    In Thane (A HIV /AIDS awareness programs ) our church
    Has a thanks giving planed on Dec. 20 for completion of
    5 years of awareness program under Project Karuna
    With Christian Believer’s Assembly. Where around 20 new worshiper s and 50 contacts have responded to the Gospel

  2. David Graham Says:

    I agree: India is endlessly fascinating, the food is tasty, the tea superb. I like the analogy of Europe multiplied by 10. What a bizarre, intriguing place…

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