What I learned living in India

I am here, traveling and living in India. This colourful controversial country that is dramatic and detailed, something of raw poetry that assaults the senses. A country struggling between tradition and modernity. It is unlike anywhere I have ever traveled; I want to share this journey with you, about how India opened my eyes in a way I never expected.

The beauty and messiness that is India.

Before my travels, I was met with concern, distaste, and closed mindedness from majority of friends and relatives. They often brought up poverty, corruption, and all the dangers that India entails. “Is it safe?” They already had this assured idea of what India was. Their cup was already filled. Violence is something that sadly occurs the world over I thought, and yet I didn’t want to be naive.

In these past months I’ve learned that travelling in India can be difficult. Observing and interacting with people in a sea of faces, so turbulent and sharp, pounding thousands of kilometers around us. Clashing in customs, languages, skin colors. This fascination with white skin is almost alienating. The traffic is a full-throated stampede of machinery, people, and animals. India is like being caught in an endless summer in an overwhelming abundance of sights, smells, and colors. Where cows roam the streets and cities are so densely packed. Take everything you’ve ever known about social structures or rules and throw them out the window. It challenges your comforts and values by being thrown into the complete opposite. India is every contradiction.

The hierarchy baffles and fascinates me. Coming from Sweden I’ve known coequality, and the thought of these biases are harsh and unjust to me. Maids and drivers are things to get used to without sounding too privileged, although you quickly realise you are. I fell at awe to the amount of luxuries and benefits we could afford and yet humbly reminded of how life can look so differently when I step outside our gates. Privilege is a slap in the face.

“I cried because I had no shoes, then I met a man who had no feet”

-Mahatma Ghandi

It is easy to feel torn or frustrated with the way things are here. It is frustrating to be constantly stared at and treated like an exotic animal because of the color of my hair and skin. It is frustrating to witness gender roles, oppression, and the controversy of blind religious conflict. It is frustrating to observe and play part in a reality so far in the past yet strewn with influences of modernity that it is almost baffling. I can’t change hundreds of years of history and culture.

It was only through broadening my mind that I truly recognised and accepted India’s unpolished charm. I wanted to experience India and be moved. Moved by it in a way that is arresting. How the most jagged parts of a place can kindle our strongest functions of survival and find meaning in life. Having your morals and culture constantly challenged forces you to grow mentally as well as spiritually. I’m not religious but experiencing these tempels, spiritual sites, and customs have broadened my gaze towards these deep inner questions we keep asking ourselves.

India is one of the most profound and incredible places I’ve ever been. For most travellers, a very personal experience and I recommend it to everyone who is looking for this type of adventure. There is so much vibrance and beauty to be found amongst it’s people and way of life. I’ve taken a step back and adopted many of it’s values into my own.

My favourite proverb follows, “Time doesn’t take, it comes.” This describes how our stressed society is always counting how much time we have, “How much time does this take?”. Instead, I choose to adopt the Indian saying and see time as something that comes, and is always coming. That’s why there is always time for Masala Tea.

During the first 2 months, I filmed my travels in India which you can see in the video above! I’d love to hear your thoughts, opinions, experiences so please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.