Ok, so let me backtrack a bit here. I am a bit embarrassed to say that I was prepared to find India hard to love. Perhaps that’s an understatement. I expected traveling in India to be a real slog. That’s what the books say. That’s what everyone says. But it just isn’t that bad.
Yes, the traffic is crazy with cars and rickshaws and bikes all jockeying for space. And “one-way” doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t drive the opposite direction here. And the pollution, particularly in the cities, is pretty bad. It stings the eyes and turns the insides of your nostrils a sooty shade of gray. And, India has a curious omnipresent smell that is a combination of urine, rotting garbage, incense, exhaust, fresh fruit and cooking oil (among other elements). And there is definitely poverty which makes you sad.
But it is an amazing place. India is so full of color and so full of life and so very different (in a good way) from back home – and everywhere else I’ve been for that matter. I have a hard time walking down the street without just standing with my jaw agape over what seems like the smallest, most quotidian thing to someone here I’m sure. It’s hard to take a bad picture here; maybe mine will disprove that but I’d shoot all day if my batteries would let me.
Aside from the relative ease of getting around here, I have been most surprised by the energy. I’d expected to find a “siesta culture” of work-when-you-want that I’ve often found in developing countries. Not so in India. People are hustling here. Early to rise and late to bed. You can walk down the streets at 10 or 11 at night and see guys moving huge carts laden with goods or vegetables, carrying stacks of bricks, welding and building houses. It ain’t just the folks pretending to be named “Mike” and “Mary” at the call centers who are tying to get a piece of the action; on the whole, people here have gotten a taste of what development brings and they are movin’ on up. There’s still a long way to go to be sure, but wow. It’s no secret that the subcontinent is on the fast track, but being here really drives home the point: watch out world, here comes India!