Nostalgia

Gangtok in Sikkim, India
Gangtok in Sikkim, India

Summertime haven,
like walking into heaven—
photographs from then.

Greener on the other side

“So tell me, why should someone visit India?”

“Er—”

When my friend asked me what’s good about India, I couldn’t come up with anything.

The only reason anyone from the first world or a western country should visit India is to understand how much privilege they have over the people of developing countries.

It’s eye-opening. Even the smallest things like a proper footpath are non-existent. Things you’d take for granted, like safe neighbourhoods, pedestrian-accommodating road rules, recycling systems, garbage trucks are all still tucked away under a vague five-year economic plan that may never see the light.

But I know all that only because I’ve lived there. I’ve wallowed in that toxicity for so long that I’ve come to hate everything about it, no longer recognising, or even acknowledging, the good things.

I wanted to leave–for a better lifestyle, a better society, and better mental health.

And I’m fortunate that I could. But—ain’t the grass always greener on the other side.

India is a beautiful country—to visit. It plays host to 780 languages, the second largest number in the world. Thousands of cultures practice millions of traditions every day. Aside from their historical practices, each group that speaks a language has many religious beliefs as well. And so, every language, throughout the years, has served as primary communication among different religions and castes (family groups). Not only does this magnify the number of classifications amongst Indians, but it also depicts the diversity that thrives in India.

For me, that’s a whole lot of unnecessary complexities that lead to political and religious wars. And that disgusts me.

However, this diversity is also why India (most of it, anyway) has a rich heritage and open-mindedness in welcoming foreigners. People love to show off—whether it’s their customs, tales they grew up with, dances passed down over generations, food that’s comforted pained souls for ages, they enjoy sharing with anyone curious enough to ask and invested enough to respect.

That’s priceless when you’re a traveller.

Even though every corner of the country, every urine-smelling alleyway, every open garbage dump, and every infected street dog nauseates the average person, that’s also where you’ll find charming old ladies selling fresh flowers for your hair. You’ll see short-tempered fruit and vegetable stall holders bickering with each other who’s got better produce. You’ll run into juice vendors who’ll pour you a glass so full that you have to take a sip first before carrying it away. When you chat with them, you’ll learn their struggles to make ends meet, to pay their children’s school fees, to wake up every morning with only three hours of sleep. And yet, as you pass these everyday people on the street, you’ll realise that despite all the harsh realities of their lives, they still try to smile, share, and celebrate spreading joy around them.

India is a “developing” country—been that way for decades. And it’s hard to say when, if at all, it’ll offer its people the comfort and luxuries that’ve become a norm in other countries. Regardless, Indians try hard every day to make their lives a little better than it was the day before. And that’s worth a visit.

Oh, and the Himalayas probably makes it worthwhile too.

Homegrown

Tenkasi, South India
Tenkasi, South India

Eyes full of wonder

while you see here and yonder

village backyards

Resilient

A flame in a clay lamp

Defiant is she

against the odds and the blows

a flame in the wind

Take a walk

Cars flash on your left,
motorists whizz by your right,
stray dogs growl in front of you
and bicyclists bell behind you
welcome to the walker’s life
yes, you’re on the footpath
where pedestrians follow single file
or break the line and break a leg
one-way streets they’re on paper
but look both sides before you cross
unserviced and flanked by trash
are the service roads, built for ease
raggedy stones, rocks, and potholes
more than make up the sidewalks
taking a hike, it will seem to you like
invest in boots and the soles thank thee
put phones away and headphones too
for good money even seconds make
wear naught jewellery, gold or silver
lest they invite snatchers, who’re many
most important of all—dear walker
watch your step, before you even step
on droppings of birds, dogs, or humans


I’ve spent a large part of my commuting life on foot. As much as I enjoy walking, I hate that the average Indian pedestrian faces so much trauma. This is just an outlet of my emotions.