Yesterday evening, I took a long walk in my neighborhood for no apparent reason. J.P. Nagar, in Bangalore, is primarily an upper middle class residential area, at least the area I live in.
What struck me, and not for the first time, was the easy co-existence of diverse environments and lifestyles that are so much a part of living in India. The smell of urine mixed with the aromas of incense sticks, the smell of wood-fired smoke with that of metal working, the smell of cooking and fresh paint, the contrasts are never ending. I peer into a tiny home and find a lady sitting on a decent looking sofa and watching TV. I would never have imagined a TV would have fit into that house, let alone a sofa. Walking a bit more, I happen upon a large Ganesha temple, next to a new apartment complex. Distinctly North Indian looking women and children chat and play outside the complex; the temple itself is a traditional South Indian Ganesha temple on a surprisingly large land area. There is no one in the temple save for the priest who warmly does the Aarthi of the god and pours holy water into my hand.
Further ahead, I hear a loud Hindi movie song playing and opposite to this open air audio room, is another temple. Here, the priest is standing outside and the look on his face is one of peace and tranquility. Blissfully ignoring the blaring music, he is lost in his own thoughts.
I continue my walk and stumble on a motor mechanic shop with two grease laden men maneuvering their hands in the bowels of a moped which had probably last been roadworthy five years ago. Next to this establishment is a carpentry shop and I cannot help but admire the intricate wooden chairs and tables being worked on.
I then pass by four healthy cows enjoying a gourmet meal of fresh garbage. A man walks by, caressing one absent mindedly. Where else would we see this!
Hardly anyone looks up to enquire on curious onlookers. People without much to do stand and gawk at the industrious individuals trying to make a living in the way they know best. It's all accepted and nothing's out of the ordinary here.
I suddenly come to a familiar park and the landscape changes; new houses, big houses and automobiles become prevalent now. Road-side vendors disperse delicious ware to hungry professionals and students alike. I kick myself for not carrying any money with me, for, though I am not hungry, it's difficult to avoid the temptations of the mobile vendors whose office space is the green grass and the open sky.
I've been living in this area for over two years and I am amazed at the teeming industry and holy shrines less than a fifteen minute walk from where I live. The high population density and the crowded houses do nothing to lessen the amicability of the various societies in coexistence. Everyone seems to get along just fine and there is efficiency and optimization all around. The smallest of spaces are optimally used and businesses thrive on sparse real estate, judiciously using any available space.
I feel so alive after a brief thirty minute walk. I can somehow relate to the struggles here even though I am not part of that life. I am grounded in reality once more. There’s a personal connection that pervades my senses; monotony and routine are just not words that apply here. India throbs with this life in its highways and byways, in its villages and its cities. I start to think as to why I would ever want to leave all this for a life I had got used to for thirteen years in the United States and reasons fail me. Not everything here has a logical explanation, and many times that's okay. Ambiguity and abstraction reign supreme and that's what makes it fun. Life in this country cannot be staged or choreographed and each aspect of the amalgamation marches to its own ceaseless energetic beat.
I love this land of contradictions, its varied hues, its diversity and most of all its willingness to fight out of the muck and be a force to reckon with. My walk in the microcosm of my country rejuventated me like nothing else can. A good friend recently gave a statement that will resonate with me forever. "In India, everything is difficult, nothing is impossible". That in a nutshell, sums up my motherland.
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