I recently saw a couple Facebook statuses of people excited about their upcoming India vacations ... yay, an abundance of curry, Bollywood, and elephants. I know that every culture, every country, ever person gets stereotyped in some kind of way. Yet it still pains me to see such generalizations. The nuances of India, the details, the subtleties, the diversity, all of that is such exquisite beauty that makes India, India. Here's my take.
India is Bollywood, but India is also Bharatanatya, Kathak, and Yakshagana. India is curry (#yum), but that's like saying "soup" ... India is choice ... palak panneer, malai kofta, chicken tikka masala, but it's also idli, bhel, chutney, dhokla, and sambar. India is elephants, but it's also packs of stray dogs that chase you if you veer too much into their sacred territory. India is leeches.
India is dirty, but it's also where each individual, whether rich or poor, takes so much pride in his or her personal cleanliness. It is where you will see beggars on the street with oiled and combed hair, and a dot of red kumkum on their forehead. India is bathing twice a day.
India is getting scammed by a shop owner, but it's also knowing that the shop owner would give you place to stay that night should you need it.
India is over one billion people, something you cannot prepare for. India is hot and humid, but it's also the cool hills of Madikeri where you sleep with four blankets to keep away the moist chill. It is the snow capped mountains of Shimla. It is the water logged and overflowing fields of Udupi.
India is Hindu, but it's also Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, and Jain. India is atheist.
India is brown, but it's also white, green, black, blue, and peach. India is a paradoxical delight of fear and comfort. A place where you can feel so alone yet so connected. India is home, but it's also a mysterious place where you'll never know what happens next.
India is the police officer yelling at the crazy driver telling him to die if he wants to, but to not take others with him. India is buying jasmine flowers from the side of the road, climbing trees to eat fruit, ignoring pushy salespeople, eating spicy food until you're sweating and crying but just.can't.stop.
India is obnoxiously in your face but at the same time, exactly what you make it to be. India is cool mosaic floors and endless hours of Cartoon Network. India slow internet and technological greatness. India is power outages and beggars with cell phones. India is smart, so smart, but also illiterate. India is young, fresh, Facebook, but also ancient, slow, deliberate, old.
India will smack you in the face when you step off the airplane with a welcoming, wet kiss, but PDA is not allowed.
You will be hit over the head over and over again by India, you will love it, you will come back for more, and you will realize that you don't really know what India is.