The plane touches down at the dinghy Kolkata airport. We gather our luggage and go through customs standing in line until various uniformed characters study our passports and visas, grunt and pass us on to the next official who does the same thing. We push our luggage cart to the exit door where a sea of taxi drivers are all eager to drive us into the dark night. A moment of doubt and hesitation– the adventure begins.
India is a difficult place to travel. The pollution is teetering at an edge that’s not sustainable–the impact of a billion and half people and intense growth. The water quality so hard for foreigners, the noise, the traffic, the dusty streets and constant hustle. With all these challenges, why would anyone in their right mind want to come here? Because Mother India isn’t about the mind, she tugs at one’s heartstrings even from 7000 miles away.
India is like a beautiful woman who has a large wart on her nose. In the West, people focus only on the wart and don’t see her greatness. I talked with a young woman at our ashram who is on pilgrimage with her father. We agreed that whenever we tell someone back home we’re going to India they respond with fear, fear, fear, “How can you tolerate the poverty? It’s so dirty.”
I’m not denying that the poverty of India isn’t shocking, pervasive, heart breaking, but I don’t much focus on that. The people of India are industrious, creative. They come up with the most ingenious solutions to problems that we have long since solved with money and technology. Today I saw a water system work with a couple of bamboo poles and rope.
I love how the people of India, of course not all, have nothing compared to our lifestyles, yet they know how to be happy and content. I love how curious and open and ready to break into a smile they are. I love how proud they are of their country and the progress it is making. I love how, as older people, we are so honored, respected and actually looked out for. I love how devotional they are and not afraid to share it. Most of all, I love their 5000 year old tradition of yoga and spirituality; the science of going beyond our limited minds to experience what every religion in the world has written about but doesn’t practice much—experiencing the peace that passes all understanding.
And besides, India is never boring. There’s always some surprise around the corner.