As the lucky (or deeply unlucky) writer of the final blog post, I have the joy of attempting to come up with a conclusion for our month in India. Through these last three and a half weeks I have mentally written the intro to this post numerous times. India is a land that threads together the old and the new. Or India is a land diverse in almost all aspects of life from the food they eat to the religions they practice. What I have since realized is that it is impossible for me to sum up India. There is no prettily packaged conclusion I can write about this trip. We have struggled as a group to define and clarify what we have seen, heard, tasted, touched and smelled throughout this month.
Our minds and senses have been overwhelmed since we took our first exhausted steps off the plane in Delhi. Right outside the airport, we experienced the first of many contrasts. The lung aching smog of Delhi’s air followed by the sweet smelling flower garlands placed around our necks. From that day on we’ve experienced countless other contrast that makes India so hard to clearly describe. In an attempt to give our dedicated readers a feel of our experience, I will try to explain some of the most startling contrast to me.
First my favorite topic: food. From the north to south India’s food is rich, aromatic and unique. As a group, we often found ourselves oblivious to exactly what we were eating, but somehow the food was always delicious. The starkest difference in food to me was the spice. As a person with weak spice tolerance, the food in Hyderabad (central India) was often like a slap in the taste buds. A bowl of rice, a couple chapati and a few glasses of water became my favorite dining companions. Even with the toned down spice at HMI I often experienced post spicy meal sweats. The aggressive spice of the north and central India contrast with the mild but still equally delicious food of south. In Tiruvannamalai, we experienced the creamiest paneer masala and freshly made egg dosa (nothing taste better than fresh dosa). Despite the different preferences on taste and flavor, throughout the whole of India food culture is rampant and delicious.
The most important contrast I observed revolved around religion. Before our trip I imagined all Indian religions as ancient concepts. Images of thousand year old ornate temples danced in my imagination mixed with ancient traditions steeped in mystery. While I was not entirely wrong in my assumptions of Indian religions, at the time I did not even comprehend the diversity of practice and belief here in India. From the shadowed cave like holy centers of Hindu temples. Where my senses were overwhelmed by the claustrophobic heat, complex chanting and rich scent of Jasmine. I stared at bare-chested Brahmin priest performing Puja to a Murti, sitting in awe and shock of this deeply spiritual and intimate practice. To the sterile sun lit white halls of the Brahma Kumaris center. A spiritual center based off the meditation practices of Hinduism. Where they emphasized the use of technology for finding peace and everyone wore the same stainless white clothing. It was hard to grasp these two religious practices were in the same city let alone based on the same faith.
To describe our time in India this last month is an impossible feat for one blog post. I hope that through these few examples I have portrayed at least a sliver of some of our experiences this last month. With only a few days left I plan to soak up as much of the culture, sun, and overwhelmingness as possible before returning to the comfort and cold of the hill. I speak for myself and my classmates as I say this trip has truly been an experience none of us will ever forget. #LIC