Local vs. Tourist Mentality – Indian Edition
Ah, magical, vibrant, spiritual India. A country so full of smiling faces and possibilities. I remember coming to Mumbai in December 2017. India presents an enthralling combination of modern and spiritual life. However, traveling around in a chauffeur-driven car or air-conditioned train, and staying in comfortable accommodations can be deceptive. I came back to Mumbai in June 2018, and this time it was for more than a few weeks. I was now going to live here for a year, without my family and friends. I soon learned India is quite complex, with many interesting customs, and adversities I wouldn’t expect to come across back in 2017.
India and its Contrasts
Now, let’s be honest, India isn’t always aesthetically or aromatically pleasing. Initially, the dirt and decay, and my lack of material possessions troubled me. But as I looked beyond these superficial things, I found unexpected beauty in everyday joys. A tiny temple on the roadside, the rich smell of incense that weaves its way through the air at dusk, a bright bird at my window, I started to see India through new eyes and began to appreciate India’s contrasts: I smelt it in the unpleasant odor of feces which turn to the lively aroma of street food and spices. I saw neighborhoods with incredible poverty adjacent to the most luxurious suburbs. Around me, beautiful women in vivid saris wandered amongst dry, barren land.
I got 99 problems…
Whenever I visit India, I always feel a rush of altruism to “fix” all its problems. It can be infuriating to live in a country where child labor, sex trafficking, and deep-rooted corruption exist. 9 months into my stay, I have noticed that I’ve disregarded many of India’s issues that I felt deeply for in the past. Was I at last truly accepting India and appreciating people’s determination to survive, and thrive, despite the adversities? Or was it apathy, and too much of a “chalta hai” attitude setting in? Slumdog Millionaire is not India’s reality. Albeit much of rural India face the difficulties represented in the film, there is, however, a much brighter side to this. Citizens fight against injustice and have succeeded to quite an extent.
Of course, like in any country, there are bad people in the world who commit the most monstrous crimes, but most locals are, in fact, the most hospitable people I have met. Before arriving, everyone warned me the city was intense and overwhelming. After a lot of thinking, I grew wary about what I would face here. But nonetheless, My adventures in India have taught me to fear less and trust more.
Tourist turns Local?
Hindus believe strongly in kismet ka karvat lena, the turn of fate. Anything is possible, and there’s always hope and faith that circumstances will change for the better. My first few months in Mumbai was particularly tough, as I struggled to be more tranquil and set boundaries with intrusive people. If any parts of your personality are flawed or require development, it’s certain that life in India will bring them swiftly to the surface. Now, I’ve come to believe there’s a solution, a creative jugaad, for everything in India. Living alone in this sensational country has colored my life with wisdom, as it slowly reveals itself a little more each day and continues to shape who I am.