Everyone told me that India was unexplainable. In the months leading up to this trip, I was told over and over to abandon all preconceptions and expectations because I couldn’t possibly comprehend the new world that I was about to enter. So that’s exactly what I did. I left all of the stories, hopes, and fears in California and prepared for the unknown. When I stepped out of the airport and into the humid Delhi night, I new immediately that I had been correct to do so. The sights, smells, and sounds around me were only a tiny taste of what I would later experience, but it was instantaneously apparent that I was in a very new place. It was three in the morning but the streets were still full of cars honking and swerving to avoid collisions. Sleeping figures lined the sidewalks, and I even saw a few kids scampering around barefoot. I stared out of the bus window, trying desperately to take it all in. The city was alive and it seemed as though it never slept.
Our bus and train rides have given me the opportunity to see a whole new side of the country. As Delhi faded away into the distance, rural India materialized around us. In India, the big cities are home to massive quantities of people. Delhi has 16 million residents. However, most of population of 1.2 billion people is made up of those living in rural villages. From our window we got to peer into the daily lives of those villagers.
The first thing I noticed was the color. Everywhere I looked, there was vibrancy. Women carried bundles of cloth on their heads, garbed in bright saris of pinks, blues, and greens. Street vendors pushed carts bursting with ripe, yellow bananas and orange papayas speckled with black seeds. Bright flames dotted the fireplaces outside of the rows of dusty huts. Stout buildings with pastel paint stood out against the agrarian backdrop. It was a feast for the eyes; you couldn’t look anywhere without a splash of color catching your attention.
As we drove along, men and children ogled and waved as we pressed our faces against the glass. Monkeys lined the roofs of the buildings outside. Little kids pumped water and splashed around. The roads were even more chaotic than the ones in the city; any attention to traffic laws vanished, plunging our bus into a ride that rivaled that of the Knight Bus from the Harry Potter books. In addition to cars, cows and carts now clogged the roads. This drew my attention to a common theme threaded through most of village life: the juxtaposition of old and new.
All of the women I saw were draped in saris with bindis dotting their foreheads and bangles gleaming on their wrists. The men chose a more modern route: jeans and tee shirts. We passed fields stacked with cow patties and huts made out of dirt and straw, only to turn around and find a Coca Cola billboard staring down at us. Farmers lumbered up the roads on cows while shiny motorcycles zipped around them. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before.
All of the people that talked to me about India before this trip were correct. There is no comparison that could truly encompass the life that goes on here. Everything is so lively and vibrant. It is the kind of place that if you blink you will miss something. I hope that I can continue to absorb as much of it as possible.