26.01.2008 - 26.01.2008
Now that we're back and readjusting to our "normal" hectic lives, I've been reflecting on our journey. Everyone has been asking "how was your trip?" and I've been finding it difficult to adequately convey the sights and emotions we experienced.
Yes, India is a land of contrasts and extremes, that is without question, but it is more than that. While our senses were assaulted and fatigued endlessly by the most beautiful and the most foul, there exists a larger extreme and divide, and that is between it's past, it's present and it's future.
The country still very much reflects the past and deeply spiritual ways where much of the population lives in what western societies consider a primitive lifestyle. Once you venture out from an urban area, you feel that you have gone back in time and get a sense of what life was like in much of America in the mid 1800"s. The spiritual depth of Varanasi, the oldest living city on the planet has left me with a deeper and more sensitive understanding of the spiritual connection between life and death that allows mankind to rationalize and accept the difficulties and absurdities of one's fragile existence.
The India of the present is pure chaos and confusion, which in some undefinable way actually works. Aside from the need for extensive upgrades of the infrastructure and the need for some serious solutions to it's traffic congestion and overwhelming population, the society seems to function on a daily basis. One merely needs patience and a sense of humor to get through the day.
I cannot fathom what the India of the future will be like. the vast development we saw in the Delhi/Gurgaon area is changing the landscape dramatically. The emergence of a real middle class will change the lifestyles of many in the urban centers, but what of those that do not have the education or opportunity to improve their plight. How will this country contend with such a huge divide between the have and the have nots? How will the concept of dharma, accepting one's station in life be sustained while the socioeconomic divide becomes so great? After so long a time of dealing with and then publicly denouncing a caste system, will this new economic divide merely be replacing the old system of rank? Only time will tell and I expect I will be visiting India again and will have the opportunity of seeing its transformation first hand.
The best part of our trip however, were the friendships that we made. In but a short period of time, we forged strong meaningful relationships that we expect will carry on through our lives. We cherish the time, the laughter, the warmth and the hospitality extended to Christine and I. The time spent with the Mahajan family of Greater Noida and the Tiwari family (and that includes Pappu) of Varanasi will always remain in our hearts.
And lastly, I want to thank Christine for the idea of doing this blog. I've never put my thoughts "to paper" before and have found it to be a thought provoking and rewarding experience. I look forward to our next journey and the opportunity to once again share our experiences with our friends and family.