India and her Beautiful Contradictions

Chaos. For me, the most striking thing about India is her lack of apparent order. Cars and buses play chicken with rickshaw and motorcycle drivers, striking fear in the hearts of Western passengers. The locals don’t seem to notice, nor do the cows and dogs that lay in the middle of the lane.

A roadside store selling tobacco, soda, and portable phones has positioned a single alter at the front door. On it are beautifully decorated images of Ganesh, Buddha and Jesus. The warm air is infused with scents of incense and curry that compete with the odors of sewage and animal droppings. Women in bright orange, purple, and green saris carry large buckets water and loads of sticks atop their heads. Rising from the ground behind them is an ad for a high-end jeweler.

Along the roads are people’s homes, shacks made from others trash and the natural resource of banana leaves. While the sun sets in the distance, women cook dinner in the door entrances, children play in the mosquito-infested water, and dogs and goats pick at the plastic bags and rotting food.

Poverty juxtaposed with great wealth. Life dances with death. This is the beauty of India.

Holy Elephant in Pondicherry, India

For a Westerner—someone raised to follow the rules, to be disciplined, to create order when none exists—the visceral experience can be quite disconcerting and confusing. Yet, there is a certain “je ne sais quoi” about the chaos here. Oddly, it seems to bring a sense of peace—the kind that comes with accepting imperfection and living in the moment.

— Jennifer Conway

 

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