The Draw of India: Beauty and Ugliness
Before India, I could have given you a definition of culture shock from a dictionary or in psychological terms, but now I can tell you from emotion and experience. As soon as we stepped out of the confines of the port I knew this country would be a test. Rickshaw drivers immediately attempt to get you into their rickshaw, pollution and people are everywhere, the humidity is intense.
I think it would take a small novel for me to properly explain India, and even then I think a lot of what we saw would be lost. There are just so many people everywhere you turn in order to gain some personal space but none can be gained, it is really overwhelming. The streets can only be described as chaos. I don’t really know why they have lines or stop lights because none of it is obeyed.
Chennai (Madras) was only the beginning of what we would all see in India. Agra was a whole different animal and was really the most shocking part of my entire time in India. At some point, I think we all just needed to turn our backs on the whole experience because it was just too much to handle. When you are exhausted and poor women carrying horribly under-developed babies, people crippled by polio are crawling or dragging themselves over and tapping your leg to beg, a man with elephantitis of the feet is trying to clean your shoes, and hawkers are trying to sell you bull whips while you are waiting for your first class express train (which is really far below standard class in the states) you really just want to either cry or scream.
Cows and water buffalo are the main cause of traffic stops, and are literally all over the place in every urban area. Sometimes the pollution in the air and at your feet was so thick it was hard to breathe, and when you see people urinating on the side of the street you really don’t know what to think. Despite any of that, India was both magical and gorgeous. The Taj Mahal, the Red Fort, the temples, the art, the saris, the food, and all of the other sights were simply amazing. Women wearing their brightly colored saris manage to catch you off guard at first, but that one article of clothing adds a great deal to the landscape. The Taj was breathtaking architectural feat. It is a land of contrast, the largest democracy in the world utterly oppressed by poverty. Dead bodies float down the Ganges just yards away from women washing their clothing. India is by every sense of the word sensory overload.
All of this adds to the draw of India making it one of the most amazing countries to travel in. My personal opinion is that all Americans should travel to India at one point in their life, if for no other reason as to gain perspective into the lifestyle we live. One visit has the ability to transform the way in which you view the way in which we live, and make you more aware of the luxurious lifestyles wealthier societies live. The shocking nature of India is the essential element of travel. No matter how many beautifully colored temples a visitor could walk past, the people are the real draw.