“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” C.G.Jung
“How was India?” was the first question people asked me when I came back home last summer. Not that I haven’t been to other countries as well on that trip, but it is the most different one from Austria or even from Europe itself. It’s not that easy to sort out all the different impressions you make of and in India. Neither is it easy to find the most intense one. Was it the food, the people, the landscape or the culture? The answer is very unsatisfying, it would be nothing and everything!
India is in my opinion a country which you really can’t describe in any words not confusing. That’s why I picked the quote of Jung about chaos and cosmos at the beginning of this article. India is a mixture of the greek-originated word that describes “a condition or place of great disorder or [utter] confusion.” and the total opposite of it, “an orderly harmonious systematic universe” – a cosmos. I think that fits it quite well. On the one hand you have the loud, crowded, dirty and polluted city of Delhi. A clear yellow/orange disk in the sky, you can look at it for a while till you realize that you’ve just stared into the sun, while a thick film of dust and smog protected your eyes and made you see the round shape of our solar systems star. By the way, a very disturbing moment. It is a country where animals take over the cities at night, where you can fight with a cow for a parking space or listen to the stray dogs howl, while they are trying to sort out who’s the alpha.
On the other hand you have mesmerizing buildings, huge sculptures, ancient monuments. You can experience the wind on top of the highest motorable road on earth. You can watch exhilarated camels casing each other through the hot sandy dunes of Rajasthan during sunset. Quiet spots in nature or relaxing parks in the big city. Behind every object you’ll find an incredible story, tragic destiny or a fantastic myth. A vibrant mix of cultures, religions, traditions and people, peacefully coexisting.
But it’s not the obvious that fascinated me the most about that country. Its the small and simple things that caught my attention. The creativity, the skilled craftsmanship even when it comes to the simplest things, the hospitality, the bond to traditions of the people. The wideness of the landscape in all its varieties. You can cross the street (maybe a bit suicidal sometimes) and feel like in a total different land. You can experience the clash between modern technology and ancient values, flashing lights and bright colors, simple structures and calming designs. People are curious, welcoming and friendly.
What looked at the beginning like a huge chaotic mess, revealed itself by closer observation to be the peaceful get together of a wide range of different approaches to a similar culture. A culture full of tradition which the people still treasure and life.
Of course there is poverty, crime and violence, but which country is free from that? Surely, bad news travel faster than good ones but it would be wrong to let the negative rumors sculpture the picture of a place.
If you decide for yourself to just jump into the adventure to explore a culture which may seem strange to you, you’ll be for sure rewarded for it. I for example, have now been two times in India. The first time it was quite strange and overwhelming. But you can get used to it quite quickly, and it may occur that you’ll miss the hectic streets, open places, the weird food and the open-mindedness of the people when you leave.
Summa Summarum I had a great time there with some quite funny and sometimes scary moments. Like running downhill in the middle of the night because there is a chance that you’ll get bitten by sheep-guarding-dogs, even if you think at the beginning that the howling isn’t coming closer… which in fact it did. Or taking a swim in a lake at over 4500 meters altitude, just because you can (or better just because you’re crazy enough to do it). And there is always a slight possibility to find yourself riding a bicycle all the way down from the worlds highest motorable road. One of the highlights of my second trip was to be invited to an Indian wedding. Quite an incredible experience, a massive spectacle, with all that colours, music and food.
So if you’re careful enough and ignore quite a few of the rules the travel guide in your pocket tells you, you might end up drinking the best milkshake in Delhi, find some awesome street food in Rajasthan or try to get 5 people in the backseat of an Auto-Rickshaw which is made for max 3.
And not to forget the curiosity of some Indians when it comes to their wish of taking a picture with a “white guy”. And it sometimes doesn’t stops with just a picture. One night at a bar in Delhi we met a very funny bunch of Sikhs who also liked to celebrate with us. It ended up in a very very very touchy feely couple of beers…
In the end it doesn’t matter where you are from or what do you believe in as long as you try to appreciate differences you might see, because believe it or not, they are more similar to you than you might think. So finally I agree with Paulo Coelho who said that “Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to understand that their neighbour is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions.”
Fantastic experience, awesome trip, awesome country, delicious food and last but not least incredible people!