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I AM AN Indian by birth and by upbringing. I understand my country is not perfect. We have very hot summers. We have cities which have two seasons, a hot season and a hotter season. We have our generous share of millionaires and we have the largest slum in the world, both in the same city.
We have customs and traditions that date back a few hundreds years and are widely practiced. Arranged marriages, sacrificial offerings are very much woven into the daily fabric of India.
I agree India is an anomaly to most Westerners who visit her. Where else does traffic meander around a sleeping cow on a highway? Where else in the world will the industrious barber replace his lack of a mirror with a reflection on a puddle? Where else does one find a land with affluent palaces with servants outnumbering the actual residents neighboring the overcrowded slums?
Shakespeare said “All the world’s a stage.” This is true of India. It is not fair to judge a play by a single act. The longer one stays the more chances he has of seeing the entire play and not just a few acts.
The uninitiated travelers set foot into India expecting snake charmers and tarot card readers at every turn of the road. Some of them are treated to the cacophony that coexists with the people in the towns of India. They hold on with their lives while the auto rickshaw zigzags its way through the almost un-penetrable shroud of people, cattle and vendors that spill onto the roads.
Some see the opulent Lake palaces of Udaipur, see the dunes of the desert roll by from within the closed luxurious comforts of a Palace on wheels train journey.
Eventually the cacophony of the bustling towns will be replaced by the almost melancholy sound of paddy fields laying in wait for the rains and travelers disembarking from a luxurious train ride with top notch facilities may find themselves having to squat to relieve themselves in far from hygienic restrooms by the highway en route to their next destination.
This is not a place where everything is handed to you. There are times when you have to work the system for even the simplest of facilities. In a country that has the largest rail network in the world sometimes one has to do a song and dance to get a ticket. Even then it is not guaranteed.
You need patience to understand India. The longer one stays the better he understands India. He sees a land that has the magical lure of palaces and forts, of modern hospitals and monstrous malls. He begins to comprehend the coexistence of eighteen official languages. He begins to understand that sometimes the impossible may be possible. Just sometimes.